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HARVARD UNIVERSITY 




LIBRARY OF THE GRADUATE 
SCHOOL OF DESIGN 







Landscape Painting 
In Oil Colour 




NIGHT IN THE COTSWOLl )S. 

FROM THE PAINTING BY ALFRED EAST. A.KA. 



-Z.. 



THE ART OF 

LANDSCAPE PAINTING 
IN OIL COLOUR 

ALFRED EAST, A.RA. -t^/Ci'c^^ ^ Jf^j^^ 



Associi Socikti Nationale des Beaux-Arts., France., etc. 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR 
AND BLACK-AND-WHITE 



PHILADELPHIA 
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 

1907 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



SCHOOL or 

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE 
HARVARD UNIVERSITY 









DEDICATED TO MY FRIEND 
R. H. IC. 



PREFACE. 

IT will be found that I have not attempted in these pages 
to write at any length on the art of landscape painting in 

its elementary stages. I have taken it for granted that 
the reader has, at least, a practical knowledge of the rudiments 
of drawing, such as may be acquired at any school of art. 
It is, of course, an absolute necessity that such should be the 
case before any attempt is made to paint from Nature. My aim, 
therefore, has been to place before the student certain considera- 
tions which do not find a place in the curriculum of our 
art schools, and which should be of assistance to him in the 
progress of his development. 

I am of opinion that the cause of a great many of the 
failures, amongst those who know something of the technique of 
painting, is their false attitude towards Nature : no matter 
how closely they may seek to imitate her, their work lacks 
the vitality which is always associated with that of a master. 
Therefore, while I shall not n^lect the necessary hints on the 
technicalities of art, my chief endeavour will be to point out the 
best method of employing one's knowledge. However well 
grounded the student may be in technical ability, he may 
yet be a complete failure as an artist. Beyond the methods of 
painting there lies the wider problem of the real expression 
of art. 

A boy learns at school the conventional rules of arithmetic, 
and in after life he probably discovers for himself a system of 
reckoning which is better suited to his purpose; but had he 



viii PREFACE. 

not first learned the fundamental rules, his own system could not 
have been so easily evolved. So it is with painting. Technique 
is of the highest importance. The artist should be able to draw 
with his brush as easily as a writer uses his pen. 

Assuming then that the student is adequately equipped with 
technical knowledge, my desire is to present to him ideas 
and suggestions which will lead him to search for the why 
and wherefore of things which may have hitherto escaped 
his attention. Such thoughts and suggestions will, I trust, 
gradually widen his outlook, give a larger interest to his work, 
and endow it with qualities which will mark it as a result of 
honest personal conviction — ^an expression of his individuality 
and character. The striving after such an end as this will 
increase his enthusiasm for his work, quicken his powers of 
observation, and help him to look beyond mere super- 
ficialities. All these qualities are necessary to the landscape 
painter, and in their possession he will find a sure reward. 
If the student can be induced to study Nature in her broader 
aspects, and to grasp her higher attributes, which must be present 
in all art, he will, probably before long, discover the methods 
by which he can best express what he finds in the world 
about him. There is a curious belief abroad that art is a trick, 
a species of cleverness, to which anyone may attain by mere 
practice and perseverance; that success would be assured if one 
could only secure the confidence of some eminent painter and 
learn his secret — his peculiar " trick of the trade." 

So considerable an amount of unsatisfactory matter has been 
printed on the subject of landscape painting that it is probable 
that the student, if he forms any opinion at all, may decide upon 
a very erroneous one. The fact that landscape painting is such a 
personal expression, and receives such varied treatment at the hands 
of its exponents, is partly responsible for this error of judgment 



PREFACE. ix 

The student, puzzled by so many different methods of expressing 
Nature, finds considerable difficulty in tracing the underlying prin- 
ciples by which all are governed. For instance, he may look at a 
Claude or a Poussin, and then at a Turner or a Corot, and find 
certain principles in the one which appear to be ignored in the other. 
" I have it on the highest authority,'' he may reason with himself, 
"that all these artists are great; but how can that be?" In his 
ignorance he cannot understand that while Claude and Poussin 
may be right in their precision, Turner and Corot may also be 
right in their mysterious generalisation. 

I can imagine such a student discovering in a great picture some 
quality which he takes to be a fundamental principle of art, and in the 
joy of that discovery he may turn to the work of another master (one 
of a different school), expecting to find that same quality there. 
But, alas I he seeks in vain. The principle, as he thought it to be, 
is not universal, and in his perplexity he flounders, not knowing 
where to find a sure basis on which to rest his theories. He may 
examine the method of Turner, which he will find more subtle 
and elusive than that of Claude. He may endeavour to discover 
how it is that that which looks nothing but a daub at close 
quarters, grows into life and being when seen from a distance. 
He may make notes, analyse and copy the pictures, and yet 
remain altogether ignorant of the great qualities the artist has 
expressed. The problem grows more and more complex, more 
and more contradictory, and his mind is in confusion. In trying 
to judge the work of one artist by a standard which he thought 
had been established by an equally great artist (and therefore 
trustworthy) he has come to grief. 

The masterpieces of musical composition by the exponents 
of that art are widely different in mofi/ and construction, but 
they are similar in their adherence to the fundamental principles 
that govern the art of music. So in like manner the varied 

B 



X PREFACE. 

expressions of landscape art are reconciled in the principles 
underlying the works of the masters I have mentioned. 

There is yet another danger in studying the letter, rather than 
the spirit of the works of great masters. A student having dis- 
covered to his own satisfaction their technical methods, and noted 
all the peculiarities of their work, may at length find himself 
looking at Nature through their spectacles. It may seem strange, 
yet nevertheless it is possible, for a man with a mind so biassed 
and influenced to approach Nature and see anything in her that he 
is predisposed to. If he looks for the leaves of a tree carefully 
arranged in the style of the old masters, he can see them ; he 
may even go so far as to discover their repetition, and the 
peculiarly affected contours of the branches against the sky. In 
short, he may become a slave, and sacrifice his own powers of 
direct perception to his faith in these formalisms. Eventually he 
will see Nature entirely through other eyes than his own. 

But there is one point upon which I would insist — ^that is, that 
the conception of the truth and beauty of Nature is not the exclu- 
sive possession of one painter, however great he may be. Nature is 
too boundless in her variations for all her truth to be grasped by 
one mind. There are aspects that are revealed by Poussin and 
Claude, and others which elude them, but which Turner and 
Corot turned to such glorious account. These painters took from 
Nature just exactly what they wanted for the due expression of 
their feeling in art. And Nature has some message, some charm, 
some revelation for each individual, if he has but the eye to see 
and the hand to record it. Believe me, whatever fault one may 
find in a work of art, the blame cannot lie with Nature. The 
greatest errors in landscape painting are to be found — contradictory 
as it may appear— -not so much in the matter of technique as in 
the painter's attitude towards Nature. If he be a realist. Nature 
spreads out before him the most wonderful objects, whose beauty 



PREFACE. xi 

is revealed by their faithful delineation. If he be a romanticist, 
she furnishes again just the special qualities that appeal primarily 
to his heart. So I would point out to the student the manner 
in which to study Nature; how to look for what he wants, and 
at the same time impress upon him the responsibility that lies 
in the selection of material. As I said before. Nature is so boun- 
tiful that the poverty of a man's work can never be due to 
lack of material, but is rather owing to his incapacity to select 
judiciously from her generous offering. 

While acknowledging our debt to the past, no true artist will 
be content to rely unquestionably upon previous authorities, nor 
allow himself to be unduly biassed in his judgment by the influence 
of their works, however fine. No, it is for every man to work out 
his own salvation in art, and to be prepared to accept the full 
responsibility for his work. He must tread his path in a spirit of 
fearlessness and confidence, yet with humility, assured that Nature 
is for him and his particular use. Problems there are still to be 
solved, and he must solve them for himself in accordance with his 
own ideas. 

To imitate and to copy is the resort only of the small-minded 
man. He may not be fully conscious of his servile attitude towards 
those he holds in high respect, but his lack of creative power is 
an evidence of the overbearing influence their work has upon him. 
The student's aim should be to emulate the great masters in the 
spirii of their work ; to strive after their independence of outlook, 
and their high standard of craftsmanship. If Nature itself does 
not suggest to him those higher qualities that are always present 
in a great work, then the student may rest assured that his 
vocation in life is not that of a landscape painter. 

There is no royal road in art. In this department of life, as 
in every other, the student must serve before he can govern. He 
must learn to construct, to draw, to paint, to observe, and select. 



xii PREFACE. 

And it is only by dose application and increasing perseverance 
that he can achieve anything worthy. The stamp of personal 
purpose must manifest itself in order to make his art distinctive — 
a purpose that raises his work above that of his fellows in spite 
of the similar course of training through which they have passed. 

My object, then, in the following pages, is to help the student 
to see with his own eyes the things that are essential to his 
purpose. Nature has so much to offer that her very generosity 
may prove a snare, since there is a danger of wasting time and 
labour in the selection of non-essentials ; for that which does not 
help is a positive hindrance. My knowledge of the difficulties that 
beset the path of landscape painters may enable me to be of some 
service. But of this I am certain, that to those who with patience, 
with minds free from bias and prejudice, determine to become 
masters, to them will come the pleasure and the ability of express- 
ing their love of Nature in a language that is perhaps the most 
beautiful mode of human expression — that of landscape painting. 



CONTENTS. 



««» 



CHAPTER I. 



PAGE 



Attitude towards Nature 1 

CHAPTER 11. 
Equipment 6 

CHAPTER III. 
Sketching from Nature 14 

CHAPTER IV. 
Pencil Drawing from Nature 24 

CHAPTER V. 
Composition 32 

CHAPTER VI. 
Colour 45 

CHAPTER VII. 
Trees 5 1 



xiv CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

PAGE. 

Skies * 64 

CHAPTER IX. 
Grass 72 

CHAPTER X. 
Reflections 77 

CHAPTER XI. 
Distance 83 

CHAPTER XII. 

Selection and Treatment of a Subject .... 87 

CHAPTER XIII 
Painting from Nature 93 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



COLOUR 

Night in the G>t8Wol(l8 Frontispiece 

A Misty Moonrise To face p, 1 

Midland Meadows „ •• 14 

Ch&teau Gaillard 32 

Evening in Spain „ „ 46 

A Berkshire Meadow „ •• 51 

The Lonely Road „ „ 64 

The Aftermath , ,. 72 

Studies of Effect. I. Stormy Dawn. 2. Early Morning. 3. Noon. 

4. Cloud Shadow. 5. Storm. 6. Sunset. 7. Mocmlight. 8. Night. „ ,,90 



HALF-TONE. 

Lake Bonrget from Mont Revard To face p, 6 

Gibraltar ,18 

Morning Moon „ „ 20 

The Avenue „ „ 26 

Opulent Autumn „ „ 36 

Landscape by C>rot „ „ 38 

The Return from the Fields. By Rubens ^ •• 39 

Morning in die G)tswolds „ „ 42 

Morning at Montreuil „ „ 52 

An Idyll of Como „ ,, 69 

Morning Sunshine , „ 77 

Chateau Gaillard „ 83 

Evening Song „ „ 84 



xvi LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 

A Midland VaBcy To face p. 87 

" The Sun of Venice Going Out to Sea." By J. M. W. Turner, R.A. „ .. 92 

Venice from the Lagoon. From a Photograph .... „ „ 92 

A Gleam before the Storm , ,^ 94 

After the F^e % 

Autumn in the VaBey of the Ouse „ „ 100 

Evening in the Cotswolds ., »» 104 



PENCIL SKETCHES, &c. 

Sketches for "The Avenue" Page 25,26 

Morning „ 29 

Ash Trees on the Stow Road „ 31 

Chateau Gaillard , 33 

Rockingham „ 53 

Near Chambdry „ 55 

Rockingham „ 57 

Elm Trees ,. 59 

Lake Bourget . . . . , „ 61 

Stow on the Wold (Soft Ground Etching) „ 62 

On the Ouse 63 

A Coming Storm (Soft Ground Etching) „ 67 



NOTE, — The Copyrights of all the Pamiings and Drawings by Mr. East, here reproduced, 

are strictly reserved by the Artist. 




.MISTY MOON RISE. 

PliOM THC I'AINTINC BV ALFRED TAST. A.it.A. 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN 
OIL COLOUR. 

CHAPTER I. 
ATTITUDE TOWARDS NATURE. 

YOUR attitude towards Nature should be respectful, but at the 
same time confident. One should love Nature without giving 

up one's authority. Do not grovel before Nature — be a man. 
Stand to your work, and draw and paint from your shoulder in a 
confident and manly fashion, feeling that you know what you want, 
and go for it fearlessly, with a keen observation of Nature. 
Look long at her, consider carefully, and then, when you have 
made up your mind, express it confidently and in a manly fashion. 
Do not go to your work as a task, but as a labour of love. One 
can detect at once the work the painter attempted with an 
immature knowledge of Nature ; it is not confident and 
spontaneous, and if he gets, after great labour, something approach- 
ing what he wanted, the evidence of his fatigue is apparent. 
There is no fatigue in Nature. Nature expresses life with a curious 
and interesting sense of directness. Although we know there are 
millions of years behind her simplest developments, yet the result 
is one of apparent ease, a spontaneous and direct effort So 
should your Art be, and it is in this respect it should resemble 
Nature, revealing an infinitely higher quality than the mere 
imitation of her surface. 

c 



2 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

Paint as if you had the authority of a man, as though all 
Nature was made for your use, to be at your disposal. Respect 
the power which lies behind Nature, and if you respect that, it 
should keep you from the abuse of Nature, and should bring you 
into closer touch with the great purpose of its being. 

Build up your picture from the broad masses; don't finish 
your trees, or your sky, or your distance first. Work on them all 
at the same time, keepin g them in tone like an orchestra. Keep 
them all in hand like a musical conductor. Have no false notes, 
no discordant~Tih(ebr'"*c6Tour. " 

Keep in your mind that you must not be ruled or unduly 
governed by what you see in Art, but by what you see in Nature. 
Don't form altogether your ideas of Art from pictures, but from 
Nature. That is your business. The value of tradition in Art 
is a question we will not discuss here. It is sufficient for one 
to get into touch with Nature and be in the most intimate sympathy 
with her. Take every means in your power of learning more of 
her, and her methods of work, and her possibilities of expression. 
Learn all about her, what she will do under any and every 
effect. You will not succeed in finding out all the possibilities of 
her expression of beauty in her many moods, but you will, in the 
course of time, know a great deal that will be helpful. For instance, 
in taking the trouble to paint a_ sky ev ery morning , at the same 
hour, for a few weeks, no matter what. the sky is, at the end of the 
time you have learned something more of the sky than you can 
read in the latest scientific book ; and so of other things. 

I also find that if I draw a tree every day for a month, I 
have gained some knowledge of the peculiar characteristics of trees 
that had escaped my observation before, and it is of no use know- 
ing the names of the bones and muscles of the body unless you 
know what they will do in action. One ought to know a tree so 
well that one can alter its form to suit the purpose of one's 



ATTITUDE TOWARDS NATURE. 3 

composition without the slightest loss of its characteristics; just as 
a figure "painter should know anatomy so well that he'can put his 
figure in action without a model, with as much ease as he could 
draw it in repose. This knowledge gives one confidence and 
authority, or, shall I call it, faith in oneself? If you desire to 
transpose your trees, for instance, to put in some that are grow- 
ing outside the area you have selected to paint, if you feel that 
such are necessary for the composition of your picture, you have 
as much right to put them there as the yokel who planted them 
where they are growing some fifty years before. But you have 
not the right to do so if you do not know sufficient of their 
characteristics ; you will be found out, for they will look as if they 
were artificially put in. But if you know them well enough, their 
requirements of soil and situation, as well as their construction and 
character, th^ will be right. My point is — get knowledge. Find 
out first the why and the wherefore of all things. The greater 
the knowledge of Nature, the simpler and stronger will be your 
work. 

You may take up the interesting study of reflection or the study 
of the colour of shadows. You may note the form of shadows, 
the differences of their forms in proportion to the distance from 
the objects on which they are thrown; you may see that in one 
case the interstices of the trees are rounded like a photograph out 
of focus; at another time they are sharp, like a Japanese stencil, 
clearly cut, and of a beautiful pattern. You may note the interesting 
difference of colour of the landscape during the progress of the 
day. You may note a thousand valuable facts. There is no 
harm in studying the reflections in a dewdrop. They are very 
wonderful and beautiful, but don't do it till you learn more 
of the earth and sky. The little bits of Nature are very 
interesting, but your business is to do with big things, to 
grasp with a strong hand the great essentials for your work. 



4 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

You are to build up your landscape with the best of the beautiful 
materials you can find, not to be led aside from your great purpose 
by the little things that are not wanted, even if they are beautiful. 
Go forward in the world with a purpose, a great purpose. You 
are responsible for your work done, and you only. The material 
is right ; Nature is as kind to you as she was to Shakespeare. If 
there is a fault or failure, do not be so mean as to suggest that it 
was due to Nature. Shakespeare does not tell you what buttons 
were on the coat of Hamlet, but he ches reveal to you the secret 
of his character. We do not want the buttons and the braid and 
all the stage properties ; we want the living, sentient man, his place 
in life which makes history. And so with you. You do not want 
the pretty little things of Nature ; you want the big strong essentials 
which stir the heart of man, and show that you have felt and seen 
them and can reveal them to others. Strong men are working 
in other fields of thought for you, and they look to you for your 
part to be done well, as you expect the best from thenL 

The architect does not blame his stone. He may build from 
the same quarry as St. Paul's, and yet the building may be beneath 
contempt, and so you must know that there is no excuse for you. 
Nature is for you, as it was for all men. And if you know it as 
well as the great who have gone, you will be able to tell us some- 
thing new, as they did, even if it be different 

Again, let me impress upon you to approach your work in a 
manly, confident spirit. Be not ashamed to do the drudgery of 
constant practice at drawing or sketching. Learn to serve and 
keep awake. Have your eyes and your heart open, always 
working. Keep your picture together, a touch here, a touch 
there; whatever you can correct, do so— here a touch in the sky, 
there one in the foreground, another in the middle distance. Build 
up your entire picture as one great whole, one intention; not in 
patches of separate interests, but all tending to one purpose and 



ATTITUDE TOWARDS NATURE. 5 

one only, every part being interdependent upon another, that the 
whole should be sure and certain, as confident as a $ketch, and as 
spontaneous as Nature. There should be no sense of fatigue; it 
should appear as if it were simply and easily done. You may have 
sweated at it, you may have given it weeks of thought, both by 
day and night; you may have groaned and writhed in the deepest 
anxiety, yet the result should be as simple and direct as a beautiful 
sonnet: that shows your conquest. No more, no less is wanted. 
You have secured what you wanted, and it is finished. 

If you have no enthusiasm, and lack courage, stay at home and 
do other work that befits your temperament. A landscape painter 
must have enthusiasm, and no shame in speaking of the pleasure 
he feels in his work. I think it is useful to speak about what 
interests you most; but be quite sure that you have the sympathy 
of the person to whom you speak. You need not be ashamed of 
your calling, for if you knew the innermost feelings of the hearts 
of others, you might find that you are envied by those who cannot 
purchase the pleasure you have in following the calling you love 
best in life. 






CHAPTER II. 

EQUIPMENT. 

IN the selection of your equipment you must bear in mind that 
comfort and usefulness are of the greatest importance. The 
art is difficult enough without the additional drawbacks 
incurred by bad materials and inconvenient camp-stools and easels. 
A camp-stool that is uncomfortable, and that causes one to sit in 
a cramped position, or occasions a constant and distracting sense 
of its insecurity, is an unnecessary evil ; and one should also avoid 
an easel that requires a great deal of fixing, and arouses nervous- 
ness at every puff of wind. Nothing whatever in your apparatus 
should withdraw your mind from your work ; your ^ole attention 
is demanded in the production of a successful sketch. What can 
be ^ore annoying, when one is striving to take full advantage of 
a passing effect, say of a distant rain cloud on a mountain side, if 
at the very moment a sudden squall overturns your easel, and you 
find your sketch face downwards on the ground; and this simply 
because you have an ill-constructed easel ? An easel for out-door 
sketching should combine the qualities of lightness and stability. 
If both cannot be secured, then by all means sacrifice the lightness, 
not the stability. 

For many years I have used a rack easel, revolving on a ball- 
and-socket joint, and stiffened at the desired angle by a thumb- 
screw. The legs are telescopic and can be shortened or lengthened 
to suit any irr^^larity of ground, and can be opened at so wide 
an angle as to render a sudden overturn by the breeze impossible. 
The rack can be so arranged that your picture can stand perfectly 

6 




LAKE BOURGET, FROM MONT REVARD. 

Fhow tmc Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



EQUIPMENT. 7 

upright and firm — ^a very great advantage when painting in oil, as 
the reflection of the sky on the wet paint always creates a difficulty. 
As an easel for water-colour work it is admirable. A rack 
moving on a ball-and-socket joint can be pulled over into a 
horizontal position, which enables the colour to dry flat, and 
prevents it running down, as often happens when the ordinary 
upright position is maintained. The only fault possessed by this 
easel is that, in spite of its light weight, it is somewhat unport- 
able. This, however, is only an objection when you are packing 
your things for a joum^, and it can be overcome by taking 
the easel to pieces, and as the parts are fastened by brass thumb- 
screws, the process need not be a labour. I have taken such an 
easel to many countries, and used it under all conditions, and 
found it excellent Of course, it will not hold a larger canvas than 
the extent of the rack, unless you take the trouble to put two large 
screw-eyes into your canvas-strainer which will grip the rack behind. 
This device can be dispensed with if you are provided with a 
"Hook'' easel, which, for large canvases cannot be excelled. This 
easel is so well known that it is scarcely worth while for me to 
describe it. As, however, this book may fall into the hands of 
someone who has not seen or used the apparatus, a few words of 
explanation will not be out of place. Briefly described, it consists of 
three poles of seven feet long and about li inches in diameter, and five 
screw-eyes large enough to admit the poles. These screw-eyes are 
screwed into the back of the canvas-stretcher, and so form of them- 
selves an easel. A small thumb-screw fixes the screw-eye on the 
poles at the elevation required. One screw-eye is hinged for the 
back pole. The advantage of this easel is, that it will firmly support 
any sized canvas up to six feet or more, and, by the addition of 
another ring and pole, it may be made to resist half a gale of 
wind, while a guy rope from the back pole screwed into the earth 
prevents it being blown over from behind. You can raise or lower 



8 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

the picture at will, and it can be placed at any angle on irregular 
ground. 

I have spoken of the necessity of comfort in painting, and you 
may be assured that an easy seat is of the highest importance 
for both health and work. How many students complain of 
indigestion, caused by the cramping of the stomach resulting 
from the use of a low stool I It should be as high as an 
ordinary chair, or at least as high as any seat you usually feel 
at ease in. To my mind, nothing is better than the tripod with a 
strong ox-hide top, which, while you are out in the country, can 
be temporarily fixed by a tack to the stool underneath. This plan 
prevents loss of time and trouble in adjusting the seat every time 
it is used. 

Now as to the canvas upon which you are to paint your 
picture. There are many opinions as to which is the most suit- 
able, most of them formed by artists who get into the habit of 
using one kind. For instance, some prefer a coarse canvas, and 
others choose a very fine texture. I think the best is a medium 
grain, which will not show disagreeably the texture of the linen 
when painted, and which is not too absorbent. It is better white, 
since it is quite an easy matter to give it a wash with spirits of 
turpentine in which a little burnt sienna is mixed to tone it to a 
softer tint. The turpentine also gives the surface a pleasanter 
"tooth," or surface to work upon, and takes away the oily and shiny 
appearance. Some prefer a half-primed canvas, that is, one with 
less preparation upon it. This is very agreeable, but it requires a 
richer body of paint than the more fully primed, and there is less 
danger of subsequent cracking. I have used many kinds, but the 
most agreeable is that which I have prepared myself, more or less 
after the manner of the old masters, and it may be worth while 
to supply a brief description of the process. 

First you strain the best linen sail-cloth of moderately fine 



EQUIPMENT. 9 

texture over your strainer, then give it two coats of thin size. It 
is advisable afterwards to sterilise the size with a wash of a solution 
of formalin. This prevents the formation of fungi by the action of 
the atmosphere on the size, and so prevents the eventual scaling of 
the paint. The ground preparation which I use is the finest 
china clay, thoroughly dried in an oven, and the best white 
lead, mixed with bleached linseed oil and spirits of turpentine, and 
a little copal varnish. If you want an absorbent surface, add a 
spoonful or two of water. The first coat is applied when the size 
is thoroughly dry and smooth. A second is overlaid in the same 
manner, care being taken to leave no coarse brush marks. It 
should not be painted on for at least six months afterwards. The 
canvas, treated as I have described, may be put on one side and 
exposed to the light as far as possible, as darkness always tends 
to discolour white lead. I believe canvas so prepared is more 
reliable than any other, and it will support the colour without 
cracking, as happens with preparations of inferior quality. 

Now we come to the paint box. This should be made of 
wood, thoroughly seasoned, since it has to bear the changes of 
temperature and moisture. When at work in the morning, if one 
places the box on the dewy grass, the bottom gets wet and the 
lid dry, and the shrinkage will prevent its properly closing. In 
the evening these conditions are reversed ; hence the necessity 
for well-seasoned wood. The ordinary boxes (originally made in 
France, but now obtainable at any art-colourman's) are best. About 
15 inches by 12 inches is a good size. It is an advantage if the 
box has a brass knob on each side to which you can fix a broad 
strap so as to carry it from the shoulder. It should contain 
palette, colours, medium, turpentine, and, if space permits, brushes ; 
though, if you have not room, you can, of course, take a separate 
brush case. And be sure you do not forget your charcoal and 
pencil. 



10 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

The medium and turpentine should be in square tin bottles with 
screw tops, and should fit snugly in their allotted places- The box 
should contain colour tubes in proportion to your needs. For 
instance, the largest will be white and the rest will vary according 
to the demands likely to be made upon them. I mention this, 
because weight is a consideration when one has to carry one's own 
material, and it often happens that your subjects are a considerable 
distance from your headquarters, so that you should take only the 
minimum weight. 

The colours constituting my palette, together with the sizes of 
the tubes usually taken in the box, are as follows: — 



Flake white* ... 


... J lb. tube. 


Venetian red ... 


... Small tube. 


^ Yellow ochre ... 


... ilb. „ 


Raw umber ... 


... Medium „ 


Pale cadmium ... 


... Small „ t 


^^ Cobalt 


i» >» 


Mid. „ 


>i >i 


French blue ... 


» >» 


Deep „ 


>i >» 


^Veridian 


» » 


Rose madder ... 


. . • >» >» 


S Ivory black ... 


>» i» 


> Burnt sienna ... 


• • • » >i 







Vermilion can replace rose madder if desired. 

These should go into your box comfortably. The palette fits 
over them, and there is space for the dipper, which should be large 
enough to receive your largest brushes. The box is generally 
made to hold several wood panels, which slip into the groove in 
the lid. These are useful either for a study of the picture you are 
painting, or, if the effect you desire is not visible at the time, you 
can do a sketch while you are waiting till it comes on. I have 
found these wood panels the greatest solace. When you start out 
in the morning to a subject which may be miles away from head- 
quarters, the day may promise the sunny effect you desire ; 
but just after you have arrived, fixed the easel, made sure of its 
stability, and added the security of the guy rope, the sun may 

• If it is found that the lead fumes arising from the flake white are disagreeable and injurious, 
the new flake white prepared by Messrs. Madderston & Co., which is harmless, might be used, 
t The small tubes are suggested to save weight ; for studio work the larger sizes are better. 



EQUIPMENT. II 

abruptly conceal itself behind a block of clouds which seems to 
extend as far back as the eye can reach, and all your preparations 
appear to be wasted. One experienced in such matters knows 
how annoying this is. Unfortunately it is far too common an 
experience in our uncertain climate, and it is the more vexatious 
if you have walked some distance to paint a particular shadow 
across a road, or to correct your colour values by reference to 
the original conditions under which you started your landscape. 
This is a crisis where the pencils and panels come in so happily. 
Instead of tramping back in an evil temper, you can spend the 
morning in making a study, or doing a sketch under the grey sky 
which has postponed your larger enterprise. 

The morning, after all, has not been thrown away. The panel 
is slipped into the groove of the lid of the box, and one has the 
satisfaction of feeling nothing has been lost by the change of weather, 
which at first looked like a disaster. 

It is difficult to give advice in the matter of brushes. Every 
artist has his own peculiar idea as to their make and shape. 
Some prefer a round full brush, others a thin flat one ; some 
again like round thin ones, and others just the opposite. No 
doubt the pattern of brush must depend mainly upon the nature 
and method of the work. In the case of those who paint from a 
generous palette, it is necessary to select brushes that will hold a 
larger quantity of colour. One's choice must also depend upon 
whether one uses the colour direct from the tubes without dilution, 
or whether a greater quantity of oil or other fluid medium is 
employed. I remember this problem weighing upon the mind of a 
distinguished lady, who was buying her colours with all the diffi- 
culties of tree painting confronting her. She inquired if the shop- 
keeper had any " tree brushes " ! The man was equal to the occasion, 
for, bringing round some brushes, he assured her they were exactly 
the same as '* So-and-so '' (mentioning an eminent painter) used in 



12 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

painting landscapes. I beg of you not to get any fads into 
your head as to any easy or special method of arriving at certain 
results. There is but one method. It is the familiar and only 
effective one, namely, that of study and hard work. The achieve- 
ment is not reached by the style of the brush, but through the 
training of hand, eye and brain. 

But though you may not ask for '* tree brushes,'' yet you would 
naturally like to know how trees are painted. " They are such tire- 
some and difficult things to paint," I can fancy you saying. Well, 
they are. But later I will g^ve you a few hints which may help you. 
Meanwhile we must have all our materials in order before setting 
out to work, and not the least important items are the quality and 
size of your brushes. Let them be of the best, for these are the 
cheapest in the end. I use a full hog hair brush, of a size from 
I to 8, and one or two small sables, sizes o to 2. A few long- 
haired sables may be convenient for drawing the branches of 
trees. Two each of these sables, and three or four each of the 
medium-sized long hair, and one or two larger ones, will be suffi- 
cient. At the end of the day's work always wash your brushes, 
either in turpentine or with soap and warm water, or put them in 
a vessel containing paraffin oil 

Now I have provided you with camp-stool, easel, a box con- 
taining colours, medium, spirits of turpentine and brushes. By 
the way, I should advise you to use oil copal medium. It is 
safe and dries well.* Do not forget to take a piece of painting 
rag ; you will find butter muslin, costing about 3d. per yard, excellent 
for both water colours and oils, and it is effective for wiping off 
colour, if necessary. 

To sum up with a few practical hints : 

Put your things right the night before starting. 

* Quick drying poppy oil is excellent, or a medium made of equal parts of spirits of turpentine, 
linseed oil, and amber or copal varnish is good. 



EQUIPMENT. 13 

Don't be in a hurry lest you forget something that is necessary. 

Be provided for an emergency, such as a change of effect. 

Don't be too respectful to Nature at the beginning, but very 
much so when finishing. 

Open your heart and eyes widely. Don't be perverse. 
Approach Nature with the heart of a child. 

Don't try to be sincere, but be so, and be strong. 



CHAPTER III. 
SKETCHING FROM NATURE. 

DON'T take any makeshifts out when you go sketching. The 
' less you know how to use your tools the better those 
tools should be. It is only good workmen who can use 
bad tools to any purpose, and they choose hot to do so. It is the 
truest economy to use the best materials.* It is also a mistake to 
think that simply because you are going to sketch, you need not 
take much with you. The real enjoyment as well as the success of 
your sketches will to a large extent depend on your forethought in 
this respect. It may be you have walked several miles to sketch a 
particular subject you had probably seen under a certain effect the 
day before, when you had no sketching material with you. Full of 
pleasurable anticipation you start away, thinking how you will treat 
the subject ; whether as an upright or an oblong, whether the 
shadow would be better if longer, or shorter, or if the distance 
should be in sunlight or otherwise, and many other considera- 
tions which go to make up your anticipated enjoyment. The 
air is fresh, the clouds sail past in great columns, and at 
the turn of the road you see your subject! You arrive, your 
camp-stool is fixed, your easel arranged and your palette prepared. 
You carefully draw the outline of your subject, and you feel that 
the scene is even more beautiful than it appeared the day before 
when you discovered it. Your pencil outline is done, and you 
open your box. Alas! your brushes? You have left them at 

* You can, of coorac, have your sketch-books and canvas of inferior quality, but for work 
which you hope will last it is absolutely necessary to have the best 

14 




MIDLAND MHADOWS. 

FROM Ttf£ J'AINTING BY Al.PRrD tAST, A.R.A. 



SKETCHING FROM NATURE. 15 

homel Then one has no proper words adequately to express the 
situation : there is no rustic available to fetch them, even if you 
quite knew where you had left them, so there is no alternative but 
to tramp back. With what different feelings you trudge your way 
along the road which now seems so tedious and uninteresting ! 
Now, if you are a wise man, you will at once get a bag and see 
that all the things required are in it before you start. You may find 
it necessary to have big brushes when you have only brought small 
ones, and vice versd, thus your pleasure as well as your work is 
spoiled. Be prepared for every emergency. Things which seemed 
improbable sometimes happen. 

Another reason is, that in making a sketch from Nature, your 
full powers must be put forth. You must be strung up to a high 
pitch. Every sense must be on the alert, for if you are not keen 
and quick you may miss everything. You may miss the particular 
effect upon which the whole charm of your subject depends, for 
each sketch should be done at a single sitting. 

It may be you have for your subject the sweet meadow-land 
of the Midlands of England, across which the shadows of the 
sailing clouds steal over the cut grass, lighting and re-lighting the 
distance, the middle distance and the wood, at the edge of which 
nestles a little village. There is nothing amiss with the subject. 
It expresses the peculiar characteristics of our country. Beautiful 
as it is in itself, how much lovelier does it seem when seen under 
the special conditions for which you have patiently waited I Never 
mind if you have to get out of bed at dawn, it may be worth the 
effort ; or if you have lingered until the white mists have stolen 
along the flats, and your dinner has got cold, it is worth the 
sacrifice. For, remember this important fact, you cannot get a 
dawn or a sunset repeated in a long experience of careful 
observation. I have never seen two dawns or two sunsets alike. 
Unlike history, they never repeat themselves. When you have 



i6 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

satisfied yourself under what conditions your subject looks best ; 
when you have risen early, morning after morning, or stayed out 
till dusk, evening after evening ; when you are certain that the 
very best conditions are before you, then make a start with that 
courage and confidence without which nothing great is ever 
achieved. Courage, confidence and alertness are supreme qualities 
in sketching from Nature. There are many things to be borne in 
mind which you must keep constantly before you. The progress 
of the shadows on the hills, which give such a wide foil to your 
sunlit trees, will not wait for you, and if you glance but for an 
instant you will see that the sky is clearing to windward, and you 
may have no more cloud shadows that day. 

When you start, you must allow for the whiteness of your 
canvas, which by strong contrast may make your work appear too 
dark. Allow a little, too, for the drying in of your colours. 
The exact tone of the hillside is more easily obtained, since its 
effect is more continuous. Then place below it the trees in 
the exact colour and tone in relation to the sunlight and shadow 
of the hills. Afterwards note the grass which is of a more 
local green, and paint its exact pitch in relation to the preceding 
tones. The road has its shadows across it. Note the subtle 
quality within the shadow that suggests the material of the road, 
for the road material should be recognised as the same under all 
conditions of light and shade. For instance, a shadow across it 
must not be like a piece of dark cloth laid down, but a luminous 
tone full of the reflection of the sky. Observe that the edges are 
darker and colder than the general colour of the shadow. You may 
ask, ^' Why not paint the sky first ? " I know you have been told 
to do so, and as every painter has a reason for what he does, let me 
explain why I should not It is much easier to paint a sky to 
suit a landscape than a landscape to suit a sky. The frequent 
cause of so many pictures showing a divided purpose in this 



SKETCHING FROM NATURE. 17 

respect arises from the unsuitability of the landscape to the sky or 
vice versd. You want the sky to belong to the landscape as much 
as its trees or its"^lfields, anii as the cloiid* forms greatly depend 
upon the existing contours of your composition, they can only be 
put in after these contours have been arranged. 

Your business in sketching from Nature is to give one a fervid 
impression of the place, its biggest facts painted in just relation to 
each other, and its characteristics set down frankly, fearlessly and in 
the most direct manner possible. In so far as your sketch 
endorses the above qualities, it will be good. The moment you 
begin to hesitate, the moment you begin to neglect the larger 
facts, you will get wrong with your values, you will lose the 
sense of spontaneity which is the charm of your sketch. There 
is, I know, always the temptation to realise the beautiful details 
of Nature, but you can make a careful study of them at your 
leisure, for you must never sacrifice the big things of your 
landscape to the details of your sketch. 

The exact harmony of sky and land, of trees and pasture, of light 
and shade, of colour and tone, these are the essentials which you 
must strive to realise, and these are sufficient, in all conscience, for 
you to keep in hand without tlie consideration of the particular forms 
which make up your foreground and masses. And you will find that 
your masses will be nlore correct, if treated in this way, than if they 
were niggled to the loss of their general breadth. A sketch may be 
described as a study, but a study never as a sketch. The sketch 
deals with the big things, the passing effect of sun and shadow, 
of storm or rain, of dawn or sunset, and must realise the sense 
of each particular and peculiar set of conditions pertaining to the 
various effects. But a study is a faithful drawing or painting of 
a particular portion of the details which may be useful to you in 
painting a serious picture, and I shall later describe how both 
may be brought into one's service for that particular purpose. 

E 



i8 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

Now if you have succeeded in obtaining a sketch which fixes 
fairly and truthfully the facts of a passing and changing effect, you 
have done well. You have had to attend to many things, you 
have worked under great pressure of thought, you have had many 
irons in the fire, and, if you have succeeded in keeping them all 
hot, every part of your sketch should be equally fervid and 
spontaneous. Having realised the object of your sketch, you might 
then, as a relaxation, turn to some of the details, and, on a separate 
piece of canvas, make a very careful study of them, otherwise you 
would not know them sufficiently to use them in your picture. I 
have endeavoured to point out to you the characteristics of a 
sketch and a study, and I would like to show you how you 
should proceed in a practical manner when sketching from Nature, 
or in making a study. 

In addition to their intrinsic interest, sketches reveal the 
character of the artist even more clearly than his finished pictures. 
They are, or should be, the vivid expression of his appreciation 
of Nature under a special emotional impulse, and on that account 
are worthy of preservation. I think more is to be learned from the 
sketches of a great artist like Turner than from his more elaborated 
works, where much of his psychological attitude is disguised. I 
should strongly advise you to study those in the National Gallery. 

It is better to sketch rapidly, since it is difficult to give the 

time necessary to the delineation of form under the conditions of 

changing light. Bear in mind that if we start in the morning, 

we have the shadows from left to right, and in the evening from 

right to left, and through the intervening hours the shadows are 

continually modifying the contours of the landscape. We cannot 

command the sun to stand still, or arrest the rain cloud, so we 

f must make the best of our limitations. Since it is so difficult to 

fj observe the subtler aspects of Nature in the fervent heat of 

; c sketching, it is necessary to analyse them, and study them separately. 




GIBRALTAR, FROM ALGECIRAS. 



From the Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 
In the W/U.KER Art Qallery. Liverpool. 



SKETCHING FROM NATURE. 19 

It is not only a profitable, but a very pleasant pursuit to make 
pencil drawings of the component parts of the subject one is 
engaged upon, and thus accumulate a mass of material for the 
picture of a larger scale. In sketching from Nature, do not seek 
to make incomplete pictures. An unfinished picture is not a 
sketch, nor has it any value except as ^practice. 

In landscape painting there are three stages — the sketch, 
which aims chiefly at command of colour ; the s tudy , which | 
devotes itself to the truth of form; and finally, the piOure, I 
which unites the fresh impressions of the sketch, with the more i 
systematic comprehension of form which is the object of the study, j { 
The picture is the end, the others are the means; and the end 
cannot be attained, in the best sense, unless you cultivate the dis- 
cipline of the means. Of course I do not for one moment suggest 
that a colour sketch should be devoid of accurate form, but it is 
necessary, in order to fulfil its purpose as reference in subsequent 
work, that it should be, above all, true in its chromatic values, even 
if false in its form. The form is always with you, whereas colour 
is transitory. If it be possible to secure both at once — ^good ; but 
I think you are hardly likely to achieve the complexities of colour 
while your attention is engaged, at the critical moment of the effect, 
on the exactness of form. The general outline may be recorded, 
but when one is absorbed in the contemplation of colour in Nature, 
the element of form is perforce very much subordinated. 

Landscape painting is the realisation of inspired conceptions. 
Some artists are moved by minute details of Nature; others 
by the wider and bigger attributes. To those who love her, 
Nature is always responsive. She offers everything you ask. 
You want the dust and cinders that make up mountains — 
they are there; or you want the clouds which mingle with 
the everlasting fires — they also are there. You may choose the 
rubble and dirt, or you may choose the peaks which keep proud 



20 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

company with the heavens. If the painter wishes, he may paint 
every blade of grass. He enjoys perfect freedom; no law forbids. 
But he should not particularise his blades of grass in a broad 
meadow, nor specify the grains of corn in the wide sweep of the 
harvest field. We know the meadow is covered with tiny blades, 
but we do not see them individually; we see only the aggregate 
of their form and colour, and a broad general suggestion is as 
faithful to Nature as would be a multitude of petty details which 
we do not see in an ordinary outlook. The suggestion of the fact 
that the tree is thick with leaves, and that it is living and moving, 
is infinitely more satisfying to one's sense of truth than would be 
an immense and painful mass of innumerable and carefully realised 
leaf-uni ts. The goal to strive towards is the living impression of 
a tree as a whole — ^as a being, so to speak — an d not of a colossal 
repository of detail. The advice I give you is to draw as well as 
to sketch from Nature every day; and slowly, but surely, you will 
feel yourself competent enough to start a large canvas, and you 
will be able (so to speak) to see your picture painted, before you 
touch a brush. 

Draw the landscape as simply as possible with charcoal, after- 
wards going over the lines with pencil ; then dust off the charcoal, 
and you have the drawing left by your pencil. (With the confi- 
dence which comes after considerable practice, you will be able to 
dispense with the charcoal and pencil, and start at once with 
colour.) Your paints must be so arranged on your palette that the 
colour most frequently used is the handiest, viz. white, and then 
follow the yellows, reds, blues and greens. It is necessary to have 
a system in placing your pigments on your palette, as it saves time, 
and time is of the utmost value when you are rapidly sketching a 
passing effect. The crucial effect so soon fades, and one's memory 
loses its acumen so quickly that you must not trust to it; there- 
fore you cannot afford to lose time by wandering round your palette 



SKETCHING FROM NATURE. 21 

for a certain colour. The place of each colour should be known to 
you as intimately as any note on the keyboard of the piano is to 
the musician. Use plenty of paint, but not too thin. Do not miss 
solidity through thinness of colour. A little medium, composed of 
equal proportions of copal or amber varnish, turpentine and linseed 
oil, is helpful. With a brush which holds an ample supply of 
colour, lay it on your canvas frankly and fearlessly, always remem- 
bering that, within reasonable limits, you can, later on, correct 
mistakes. 

The sky can be painted first with a coat of white, tempered 
with yellow ochre, and the blue patches of the sky painted into 
it* Exact tone and colour are as important in sunlit areas as 
in the space shadowed by the cloud. It is essential to ascertain 
the difference between the sunshine and the shadow. Having 
settled what you feel to be the exact difference, place the colours 
down upon your canvas. But if you are not quite sure of the 
result, wait for another shadow to correct your values. Utilise 
your cloud shadows for form as well as for colour; the shadow 
displays the varied contours of the ground over which it falls, and 
thus affords a valuable aid to perspective. Perhaps the shadow may 
cross the wood on the hillside, and leave the church and cottages in 
sunshine. You will quickly detect the difference between the trees \n 
shadow and those in light. Fields which were vivid in their rich 
green in sunshine, become more subdued in shadow, though not 
less luminous. The foreground grass, for which you might have 
used bright cadmium and transparent oxide of chromium, must 
now be represented in a combination of yellow ochre and cobalt, or 
deep cadmium and French blue. 

Bear in mind that, although the colour of the middle distance 
and extreme distance may be lowered, it must convey (as in 
Nature) the impression that it is composed of exactly the same 

♦ See chapter on " Skies " (p. 64). 



22 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

materials ; that is to say, the distant grass must look like grass 
as distinctly as that in the foreground. There must be no halting 
to inquire, no hesitation in this assurance. The diminished size of 
trees, houses, and other familiar objects explain their own distance ; 
but large spaces, as for instance of grass fields on a hillside, 
depend more upon aerial perspective, the criterion of judgment 
being in this case a just tone of colour ratner than the dimmution 
of in3ividual objects. 

'"I have no^ouBt that you will find the middle-distance objects 
extremely difficult to paint, and I fear many artists use the same 
colours as in the foreground, merely diluting them by the addition 
of white, thinking they will thus secure the desired alteration of 
\ tone. This is not the case. All the various distances, which we 
describe as middle or remote, not only demandi a change of actual 
pigments, but a fresh combination of colouj;. Thus, while the fore- 
ground may consist^oT the strongest greens, the middle distance 
may require white, yellow ochre and blue, and in the far distance, 
rose madder, white, a little yellow ochre or raw umber. Now I 
would ask you in oil painting not to dilute your colour with oil or 
medium more than is absolutely necessary for facility in working. 
This is a fatal error made by so many amateurs when painting 
from Nature. You must learn to master the somewhat stubborn 
material, and when you have overcome the technical difficulties of 
the craft, you will find the great advantage of being able to 
manipulate a fuller body of paint. 

When you have painted the foreground, the mid-distance, the 
wood, the light on the church, the village, you have practically 
completed the sketch with the exception of the sky, a nd that should 
harmonise with the structure of the landscape as a whole. The 
forms "of the clouds must preserve a suitable relation and sympathy 
with your landscape. Their contours must assist the lines of your 
composition, and their character be in keeping with the effect you 



SKETCHING FROM NATURE. 23 

have elected to paint* Their scale also must be studied, for it 
must not lessen the sense of the width of the meadow or the 
near distance, or the distance of the hills. Now you have the 
opportunity of perfecting your composition. You may put in that 
little bit of extreme distance which so beautifully melts into your 
sky, and you will consider whether the pool in the foreground 
should reflect the white or the grey-blue of the heavens. Do not 
hurry your sketch now, for the effect you sought after has passed; 
you cannot improve on the first vivid impression, and though the 
forms still confront you, you cannot invent the exact relations of 
colour which Nature only has the privilege of creating. Leave 
well alone ; or, if you are not pleased with the day's work, repeat 
the subject to-morrow if the weather is the same, and the 
experience you have gained will guide and nerve you for your 
next attempt. 

* See chapter on " Painting from Nature " (p. 93). 




SECOND SKETCH FOR **THE AVENUE.' 







THIRD SKETCH FOR «THE AVENUE.*' 




THE AVENUE. 

From the Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



PENCIL DRAWING FROM NATURE. 27 

things better ; you will also observe the difference in the growth 
of the various species of trees, and if you are drawing a cow, you 
will see that the shoulder is just so far from the head, you will 
note the correct set of the horns, the peculiar formation of the 
jaw, everything in fact will have a new interest for you. 

Your sketch-book should be the receptacle for designs of 
landscapes, and when by means of these drawings you have 
accumulated the best material and have obtained a satisfactory 
result, you can then begin your picture with confidence. 

You will s^e in the accompanying illustrations from my sketch- 
book three trials for a composition, each of the same spot, but all 
different. In the first sketch I have placed the trees as they 
were in Nature, in the second I have made an alteration in the 
distance, and the third is the final composition which I after- 
wards painted but reversed. I recommend you frequently to 
practise the drawing of trees. Take, for example, the ash, which 
is not so difficult as many others ; then proceed to the oak, 
willow, elm and poplar. Draw in the landscape, so as to 
get an idea of the composition, and when you are competent, 
re-arrange the material before you to suit the purpose you have 
in view. 

Never let anything prevent your drawing a little every day. 
Draw the intricate hedgerow, or the big cloudy sky. It is 
necessary discipline, and what scales and exercises are to the 
pianist, so is pencil drawing to the artist. One's hand grows 
sensitively obedient to the brain, and answers directly to one's 
power of observation, like the touch of a musician's hand upon the 
keyboard. He does not stop to calculate the interval which will 
produce harmony, but obtains it by an instinct which is the result 
of long practice, and so the artist's hand as naturally expresses 
what he sees. The delight in the easy and competent expression 
of form is only surpassed by the delight in the expression of 



28 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

colour, and those two qualities of sensitiveness to form and colour 
go to the making of a painter. 

At first you will probably find sketching with the pencil 
irksome, but the taste for it will grow. In spite of your inclination 
towards colour, you will learn to love it. So certain will your touch 
become by persistent practice, that you will /eel the drawing. You 
will get that something in the work which lifts it above the merely 
mechanical imitation, to that higher plane which is instinct with 
life. In such study you will notice many things that had pre- 
viously escaped your observation, and instead of making a laboured 
mess of your pencil drawing, your hand will answer to your eye 
directly and confidently. 

The more you know the details of your subject, the greater 
will be your power to allot to them their due position and their 
due subordination as you observe them in Nature. Wherever you 
meet a conjunction of fine forms in Nature (which are so grouped 
as to appeal to your sense of style or of decoration), do not miss 
the opportunity of making a drawing of them. They are not too 
common. It is not necessary to make a detailed drawing, but 
sketch in the masses and the main lines of construction, noting 
how the trunks of the trees support the foliage. Mark the out- 
lines of the branches and their shadows, then draw the principal 
lines of the landscape, and the outlines of the clouds piled above 
it, and the manner of their shadows. You will thus have obtained 
the general facts of the character of your scene, and this is the 
first object of your pencil drawing. The second aim is not of so 
broad a synthesis. Your object now is not the construction of 
the design for a picture, in which you have to transpose certain 
things that are not exactly agreeable in their natural position, 
(a change more easily effected in pencil than in paint), but to 
draw the details of which the masses are composed. You must 
note all the peculiarities of a tree. Draw its trunk or a section 



30 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

of it, or a small bough, with each individual leaf. You will 
observe the manner in which the branches attach themselves to 
the trunk, and all the details of its construction, so that you 
will know how to use the tree in your landscape. The same 
method applies to other details, t.e. in your general sketch the 
hedge appeared a mere outline, soft at the top and stronger 
where it came in contact with the earth ; but now it must be 
drawn in all the fulness of its detail. The form of each item 
which goes to make up the intricate mass must be drawn. Make 
a careful note of the various individual plants, as you may 
probably want some of them afterwards. This drawing will help 
you to a better understanding of the colour, which, as a luxury, 
you may subsequently indulge in. Not only is pencil drawing 
most excellent practice for the landscape painter — it is also a 
pleasant means by which a large amount of knowledge may be 
obtained. You will be surprised how the quality of your line 
will improve, so that you will be able to convey the maximum 
of meaning by the minimum of effort. You will find that your 
pencil will roam over your page, following the contour of the 
hills and trees with accuracy and feeling; almost involuntarily 
you will find the hand answering to your eye. For the etcher 
this quality is essential, and it is of the greatest possible value to 
the painter. 

Pencil drawing, as I have attempted to show, is not only 
useful to you in your trials for a composition, in which you have 
faced the problem of transposition of the forms of Nature, but as 
a means of obtaining studies of materials which will enable you 
to suggest in the broad masses of your painting, the multitude 
of details which build up its breadth, and in such a way that 
although not literally drawn, they are so suggestive that they 
give one the satisfaction that they are complete. 



% fC di k , 




CHAPTER V. 

COMPOSITION. 

PERHAPS the most elementary and yet one of the most abstruse 
qualities of landscape painting is composition. The moment 
a painter places any arrangement of forms upon his canvas 
he makes a composition and at the same time encounters its 
difficulties. It is easy to recognise bad composition, and easy to 
avoid what is obviously wrong, but there is a very far cry between 
what is not bad and what is really distinguished. No one would 
think of taking Nature always just as she is; even, the photographer 
with his limited power takes the greatest pains in the arrangement 
of the material before him. The painter with fuller powers has 
greater responsibilities, and if there be some excuse for the former 
in consideration of his limitations, there is none for the latter. 

The problem of composition faces him at the very outset of his 
work ; he may be quite certain of its importance in the other arts, 
recognising its claims in Music, Poetry, and Architecture. He 
may acknowledge that Nature has offered fewer suggestions to the 
sister arts than to the landscape painter, but suggestions of 
^br eadth , dignity and style, which she has offered each, are neces- 
sary to themafl. 

If the painter finds that rare thing in Nature, the happiest 
conjunction of the most suitable forms for a great composition, 
and he appreciates its worth, his appreciation is the proof that he 
understands what constitutes fine composition. If he cannot discern 
it in Nature, he cannot be expected to venture into that difficult 
field, wherein he assumes the authority to transpose his materials to 

32 




L^ »A,j, i .,*. WJ.j»; ' r'« " Jf-!'^-8C. ' *,J | 



CHATHAU GAILl.ARa 

tROA'. THE PAINTING liY ALFRED L'AST. A/^ \. 



34 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

suit his purposes, and of selecting what he requires for the definite 
object he may have in view. In the art of composition he accepts 
the whole of the responsibility of his position, for either success 
or failure. 

Since composition is an essential in the expression of art, one 
feels how important a few hints may be, for the landscape painter 
is surrounded by many pitfalls and snares, and the more he may 
love Nature the more difficult he may find it to avoid them. 
Innumerable unessential details, though attractive in themselves, 
may mean destruction to his composition. The authority to select 
is not only necessary but obvious. Therefore a painter must 
assume that authority to which, as a man, he has an undoubted 
right. 

Composition is a convention founded upon wide principles. If 

it is not yet demonstrated why certain arrangements of form and 

colour give pleasure, and other arrangements give pain, it is not 

a question for us, but for the scientist. We know that it is so, 

and therefore, without going into the origin of the pain or pleasure, 

we must accept the facts as we find them. The finest and 

most prominent quality is balance; the sense of balance gives one 

4 '^ the feeling of satisfaction. TEere are numberless means by which 

this may be obtained, each governed by certain conditions. The 

decorative artist has his special conditions, the architect his, as 

also in their sphere the poet and musician have theirs. We have 

to consider what those conditions are which govern landscape 

painting. This interesting quality of balance can be demonstrated 

by the steelyard arm, or the illustration of the balance of a 

pound of Jead Jo^aj)(mnd of feat hers. For example, two pounds 

of lead would balance bulk for bulk — ^such a fact is too obvious to 

arouse one's interest; but the moment the bulk of the one is 

increased and the bulk of the other diminished, one's interest is 

instantly stirred, and the question arises as to what difference of 



COMPOSITION. 35 

material causes the change of dimension. So in the case of the 
steelyard, the disproportion of weight, of course, determines the 
placing of the pivot : if that be just, there will be a perfect balance. 
Now imagine your pound of feathers, large in bulk, to be the 
clump of trees, and your counterpoint on the other side of your 
picture to be your pound of lead — i.e. an object of a strong and 
definite value — ^you recognise at once where the point is in your 
picture upon which these quantities will swing. That point or pivot 
is one of the most interesting parts of your composition, because 
it is the blind spot ; there, and there only can be placed any 
accent such as a figure or figures in one's landscape which will 
not disturb the previously arranged composition. 

Frequently I have composed a landscape without the introduction 
of a figure, and afterwards, for the sake of scale — for everything i n 
art must be gfoverned by the size of the human fieure — it seemed 
appropriate to introduce one, and I have always found that if the 
composition was correct, the place for the figure was in the centre 
of the canvas — i.e. exactly half-way between its two sides — ^and formed 
the pivot which I have already described. On the other hand, if 
you design a picture with the intention of introducing figures, you 
would not of course place them in that position at first, but would 
so shift the balance of the other objects in the picture, such as the 
trees, sky forms, etc., as to make the introduction of the figures 
agreeable, or in other words, to make the balance just. 

Now a few words of practical advice. Be ware of equal quantities 
ofjight and dar k. See that the masses of your dark, such as trees 
or houses, are not equal in form or area to your masses of light, 
such as water, sky, or road. See that the dark masses do not 
divide the picture in two equal parts. (See illustrations A and B.) 

You will observe that the quantity of space covered by the 
trees in Fig. A is equal to that covered by the sky, and not 
only is there equality of quantity, but more or less equality 



36 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 




FIG. A. 



of form . This will be better un- 
derstood by turning the sketch 
upside down. Such faults are 
frequent, and should be most 
carefully avoided owing to the 
repetitions of forms in Nature; 
but you will see in this example 
what not to do. Note that the 
form of the sky is practically the 
same as the rounded forms of the trees. This danger, great as it 
is, is perhaps less marked than the inclination to repeat forms in 
Nature, such as the contours of the branches of the trees and of 
clouds. The branches of trees offer you an opportunity of falling into 
the error more easily, since it is more apparent to the casual observer. 
Before speaking of the smaller forms of Nature, le t^me urge y ou to 
be careful, before you touch your canvas with a b rush, to see that 
you? big things arejright. If they are right, you may be sure the 
little ones will, more or less, take care of themselves. Therefore, 
when you have a large canvas before you, the first thing to do is 
to determine on the scale of the subject you wish to paint. With 
a piece of charcoal you roughly outline the great masses as described 
in another chapter, and when you have a rranged the masses of 
your mater ial and founji^Jhe_ 
scale, you decide how much or 
how little of the field of vision 
you can include within your 
canvas, and this can only be 
done by a number of pencil 
drawings in your book, or a 
number of charcoal outlines on 
your canvas. You have to con- 
sider what is the object of 




FIG. B. 




OPULENT AUTUMN. 

From tmc Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 

In the possession of Sir John Brunner Bart. 



II 



COMPOSITION. 37 

painting the subject ; whether it be merely to make a copy of the , 
material before you, or so to arrange the material that it will 
express the emotion Nature may have given you. You may elect 
to paint the large masses of the trees clear of the top of the 
canvas, or, on the contrary, you may choose to cut off the tops 
by permitting them to run out of the picture. These matters are 
at your discretion ; the fineness or poverty of the composition 
depends upon the discretion used. 

After having made up your mind how to arrange the big 
masses of dark and light upon your canvas, you will begin to 
discern that there are other things which call for consideration. / 
The question of tone , for instance. You will find that the tone of ^.^ ^TtAjt^^^ 
your masses, in relation to the tone of your sky, plays an important 
part in the matter. For example, it is easily understood that a 
small light looks more brilliant when in close contact with a deep 
tone than if it were surrounded by tones of the same value, although 
the colour might be different ; the composition, therefore, may have 
to be modified through the darkness or lightness of the sky, or the 
contours of its forms. I find it better to paint the contours of my 
sky forms to suit the contours of my landscape. You must always 
bear in mind that every contour in your composition is gauged by 
the right angle of your canvas and the edge of your picture, and 
in the relation to these lines should be the expression of the curves. 
These contours have an essential purpose to serve, insomuch that 
they must express the nature of the material. They should also 
be big in feeling and noble in design. 

I have pointed out that the curvature of any line is immediately 
seen by comparison to the edge of your canvas, and it will be 
understood that the scale of your picture will also be governed by 
it. For example, a number of small curves do not convey the same 
sense of dignity and style as large ones if they be fine. You see 
that in the landscape by Rubens in the Pitti Gallery (see illustration 




38 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

facing p. 39). This picture conveys no sense of style; it is all 
frittered away by several small incidents, each attracting the eye and 
not helping the general effect of the whole. How different is that by 
Corot ! There we see but one intention expressed, and the introduc- 
tion of the figures adds to the value of that intention. You see 
in the former no sense of balance, while in the latter this feeling 
is so delicate that one touch more of dark or light would destroy 
its charm. In this illustration by Corot one sees the application 
of the general principle I have spoken of in the introduction 
to this chapter. 

But here let me warn the young landscape painter against the 
imitation of the Masters. A young man once said to me, that 
he was in great distress about forming a style; that when he 
went out on a misty morning he thought of Gorot, and if the 
morning were breezy he remembered Constable. I said, '*Why 
don't you remember yourself? Aren't you a man?" That is what 
I w2Lntyou to remember, and I say it again, at the risk of repetition, 
you are to work in the spirit of the old Masters, and not in the 
letter. I (fo'not want you to compose all your canvases like Corot 
because I point out to you one of his qualities, which stands out 
in contrast to the absence of that quality in Rubens. I would 
advise you to study the work of Claude in his " Liber Veritatis " ; 
better still. Turner's " Liber Studiorum " (that Master who, 
whatever his materials were, always presented to you a noble 
composition). And then, if there is anything in you, you will 
form your own style. The study of the works of these great men 
will help you to a better understanding of the great importance of 
composition. Each had his own personal way of looking at Nature, 
although their modes of expression were different, but they were 
one in the great principles that underlay their art. 

I should like to encourage you to cultivate the force and personal 
qualities which these men possessed, and if you have sufficient 




LANDSCAPE. 

From the Painting by COROT, in the Louvre. 
Photograph by Neurdein, Paris. 




THE RETURN FROM THE FIELDS. 
From the Paintino by RUBENS, in the Pitti Palace. 
Photograph by Anderson, Rome. 



COMPOSITION. 39 

knowledge you, like Turner, could transpose your materials. If 
you have not, do not try, for you will come to grief. The removal 
of a tree, or the diversion of a road, or the rearrangement of any 
smaller details will give you trouble, and that is a proof you do 
not know enough of the principles of composition. 

One overlooks many little personal peculiarities and falsities in 
great work if the essentials are right, and I would impress upon 
you the necessity for bearing this fact in mind, that if the essentials 
are wrong, no matter how beautifully the details are painted, the 
picture cannot be a fine work of art. Yo ur b usi ness is ^o express 
bi g though ts — big ideas, by b ig_means — and it is possible to do so 
withou t the sacrifice of truth to Nature, There is no reason why you 
should lose the characteristics of the particular tree you are painting, 
because you make its contour finer, or remove it to another place. 
Trees differ as much in personal character as men. You will find 
noble forms and mean ones; they are at your option. If you 
paint a mean one which is not suitable to your purpose, simply 
because it grows in the same vicinity as the other material you are 
sketching, it is because you have not the power to alter it, or are 
too lazy to attempt it: either thing is enough to ruin your work. 

Let me ask you to look at Nature with wide eyes, a large 
appreciation, and a broad, generous, and synthetic outlook ; and if you 
cannot express the splendour of her dignity and the breadth of her 
repose, you may still do more than the man who thinks a pretty 
hedgerow or a moss-grown cottage all sufficient for a noble landscape. \\ ^^ 

Having spoken of the larger qualities of composition, let me 
point out to you some minor considerations, the aggregate of 
which should assist you to build up a picture. 

You may have rh)rthm, but be careful lest your rhythm degenerate 
into repetition. Do not let alliteration of form be obvious. Allitera 
tion iS^a distinctly charming quality in composition but it is a 
dangerous one in the hands of the ignorant. Look to your angles. 



r ■ 






42 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 




FIG. E. 



^r — 




FIG. P. 




FIG G. 



important, as the distances from 
A to B and C to Z? are equal, 
and the distances from E io F 
and G to H are equal. This 
is not right. The bulk of the 
trees and the distance from the 
edge of the canvas are the same. 
You may say to yourself, '' What 
am I to do in this case? Can 
I put a dark sky in one side 
and light in the other, or can 
I put some trees and show the 
distance in the other — which 
would be the better ? '* You make 
the experiment, with this result 
(see Fig. F), and may paint a 
large tree to the right or left 
of your picture which destroys 
the sense of equal distribution. 
The painter can raise or lower 
this or that as he feels his pic- 
ture requires it (see Fi;;;'' G 
and H); and when he has 
done this, he might take his 
mirror, and see what that most 
impartial friend says of his de- 
sign; if it still holds good 
reversed, I think he may be 
satisfied that it is correct. 

Some of the forms of landscape 
composition may be described 
as triangular (see ''Moonlight 




MORNING IN THE COTSWOLDS. 

From the Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



COMPOSITION. 



43 



in the Cotswolds," frontispiece, and " A Berkshire Meadow," facing 
p. 51), circular (see " Morning in the Cotswolds," facing p. 42, 
" Lake Bourget from Mont Revard," facing p. 6), or convergent (see 
" Lonely Road," facing p. 64, and "The Aftermath," facing p. 72), but 
one does not think to what order any composition belongs, if it be good. 

Remembe r that no spaces must be equal between the masses, 
or be twee n the masses and the edge of the frame; that the 
lines should be in harmony as well as the masses. I mean that 
the swing of the outline of the 
tree or any object should not 
be needlessly interrupted ; that 
the great mass of darks should 
not be placed in sudden oppo- 
sition to the lights, but should 
be broken by half-tones. The 
sense of breadth and harmony 
is thus secured. But where 
you wish to produce a very 
strong effect, such as a storm, 

the hardness is modified by the dark sky. One cannot throw 
over all rules of composition without seeing instantly there 
is something wrong, and until you can detect such errors, you 
cannot hope to make a noble design. You must also think 
of the quality of your material before you think of its dis- 
position : thus elms and oaks have a different effect to black 
poplars, the first strong, the latter soft. 

Bear in mind your linear as well as your aerial perspective. 
In your composition your lines should be sympathetic, and when 
they are not pleasant in Nature and have a soft and sleepy 
feeling, the refreshment can be obtained by a dark or light, but 
more frequently by the addition of an opposing line which should 
be led up to with great discretion and care. 




FIG. H. 



44 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

A picture of a flat countiy can be made into a good composition 
by the inclusion of a big sky (see " The Aftermath," facing p. 72), 
and so hundreds of examples of the importance of composition 
might be cited, including the drastic method of cutting your 
picture down, or adding a piece to it, a measure which you 
should not hesitate to adopt when all other means fail. 
But do not do this impulsively. Cover the parts to be cut with 
strips of brown paper till you get the exact proportion of parts, 
then get a new stretcher made to the size. Cutting down is a 
last resource, and should not be done unless the result would 
be a distinct gain, but it is sometimes necessary. You may have 
painted your picture in too small a manner, the reduction of 
its size will then increase the sense of scale. You have, for 
example, painted your mountain, in an Alpine subject, too low in 
the picture — b, common fault — ^and you feel it gives no sense of 
the height you wish to convey. It is too well painted for you to 
tinker with it, and yet something must be done. By cutting a piece 
off the sky you at once give a sense of height to the mountain. 

To improve your composition your picture may require an 
increase of size. Such an alteration is invariably made at the top, 
but it is a more difficult matter to add to a canvas than to cut it 
down; an addition means relining, which brings many difficulties 
in its train, and should be carefully considered before such a step 
is taken. I would almost go so far as to say that it would be 
better to repaint it, than resort to this. 

There are so many interesting problems in composition, that 
it would require more space than I have at my disposal to 
describe them — the bearing of one thin^ upon another, the 
relative influence of lights and darks, apart from the sentiment 
of the picture. But this may be said of the art of composition, 
that it is one of the most interesting, though it may be the most 
difficult problem for the painter. 




bViiNING IN SIMIN. 

^ RO.H IHl PAINTLNG T.Y ALIRID EAST, \.K A. 



\ 



CHAPTER VI. 

COLOUR. 

WHAT is Colour? We understand well enough the general 
meaning of the term, but cannot easily frame a defini- 
tion. Some day, perhaps, colour will be defined as chemical 
compounds are, and described quantitatively, a definite figure being 
employed for a definite tone. At present our definitions are loose, 
and we cannot explain the exact measure and meaning of our 
words when we speak of colour. We ought to have such defini- 
tions as will leave no doubt in the ^reader's mind as to the tone 
the writer refers to; and we should associate the exact tone of 
a colour with an accepted symbol. We call yellow, yellow; yet 
there are a hundred tones of yellow, from the most brilliant 
suggestions of light, to the deep hue which lies on the border- 
land of red. We have no names for these except '' light " or 
**dark," and very weak epithets they are, and absolutely worthless 
to the artist. We say a sky is blue. It may be so, but you 
would frequently be inclined to call it green were a fragment of 
that pigment held up for comparison. 

In the works of eminent painters we see the sky painted in 
a fashion that suggests all the qualities of atmosphere, — distance, 
the sense of infinity, etc.,— yet if we were to compare it with 
Nature we should find that the picture which gave these revela- 
tions was painted many degrees lower in tone than the actual 
sky. So again with red. It may be sumptuous, full, rich, ex- 
pressive of dignity and power; or it may be poor, mean, and 
unworthy of its place ; yet we call it " red " in either case. On 

45 



46 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

one side it may coalesce with a blazing scarlet, or descend the 
^jojrple slope towards blue. If this indefiniteness occurs in the 
primary pigments, what shall we say of the secondary and tertiary 
ones, with their infinite range of subtle greys? It would be an 
impossible task to follow and describe them. It is not within the 
capacity of the human mind to do so. We use names which 
are, after all, but approximations to the real facts. 

Colour cannot be expressed without a medium, or without the 
assistance of form, yet it has a quality independent of either. It 
is the significant beauty of a pearl, yet, strange to say, it is of 
little value when the same lovely iridescence is shown in a meaner 
material. We lose a vast amount of the enjoyment of life in the 
non-appreciation of colour in its infinite varieties and combina- 
tions. There are within our minds associations of sentiment with 
colour. For example, red calls up the ideas of force, cruelty, or 
passion; purple speaks of dignity and regal splendour, and blue 
of purity, and so on. But, for all that, it has not been discovered 
what form or shape best serves for their display; and if the most 
expressive form, let us say, of red be made, it may lose or modify 
its meaning through contact with its complementary. There is a 
wide field of unexplored thought in the question of colour and its 
bearing upon the emotions through art, but it is too abstruse 
for a book of this character. It is sufficient for our purpose to 
insist that the student should recognise that there is as much 
artistic thought necessary to th e selection of colour from Nature , 
as there is in the selection of form, and that no colour should be 
allied with form, if by such alliance that form should lose its 
special characteristic. Our nerves may be as irritated by a series 
of tones of colour in a bad picture, as our ears would be by the 
discord of tones in music. 

We speak of "good'' or "bad" colour. These terms are 
entirely relative and conditional. No doubt colour gud colour may 



N 



COLOUR. 47 

be good or bad ; but, from the painter's point of view, its quality 
is determined by its suitability to the purpose in hand. The artist 
has the whole gamut of colour at his disposal for his own selec- 
tion. If his selection is bad, he must not complain that he has 
riot had the opportunity of choice. It would be equally absurd 
if the musician complained of the quality of sounds, or the author 
of the nature of words. Great thoughts have been expressed by I / 
siniple^ terms, and great pictures painted with a simple palette. ' / 

I mention this matter, because I want to warn you that no 
excuse is valid for the misuse of colour. You cannot come 
back puling from a mis-spent month of work and say you never 
had a chance. You have had chances as good as any of the 
greatest painters ever had. It is entirely your own fault if you 
select colour that is common or mean. Some people see only the 
sordid elements in life and Nature ; they seize only the non-essential 
things which Nature would almost seem to display in contrast 
with the truly great. Philistine painters, mistaking these for the 
inner realities, and being oblivious of true place and proportion, 
reproduce them, and leave the characteristic things undone. So 
with colour. They see the obvious and superficial ; they do not 
see what is distinguished and fine. Unfortunately their appeal to 
Nature for justification is allowed by those who see her with the 
same meanness of vision. 

The appreciation of colour is undoubtedly a rare gift. With 
it a man can become a sfreat painter; without it, he cannot ' x 

possibly claim a position amongst them. One can cultivate this 
faculty "IT* Tt'ls' inborn, and^deveTop it to a higher plane ; but 
if it is absent it cannot be created any more than you can create 
an ear for music. It is a well-known fact that faculties 
become atrophied by disuse, and exercise is necessary for the 
retention of natural gifts. It is said that Darwin, who used to 
practise music in his early days, completely lost all sense of 



;n me . 

With /.^C>" U T "' 
an not ' f \' k 



48 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

it after a long period of life devoted to scientific pursuits. 
He could not tell the difference between **God Save the 
Queen " and '* Rule Britannia/' You perceive, therefore, it is 
equally necessary, if we wish to keep^ the colour sense keen, to 
constantly sharpen that faculty by close observation and com- 
parison of colours in Nature, learning to select those that will be 
most consistent with our purpose. The vulgar craftsman will give 
you the rough, primitive colours that are seen by the crowd; but 
the disciplined eye perceives the qualifying effect of many different 
local conditions, yet never loses the truth amid these modifications. 
You have admired the beauty and subtle colour of the landscapes 
by Cazin, You cannot say for certain what proportions of 
yellow or J)lue composed his green. You cannot detect the par- 
ticular pigment in his delicate greys. But you instantly recognise 
that he has seen these tints in Nature, and that his representation 
is just and beautiful. You conclude that they are arrived at 
through a refined and artistic temperament; not the coarse and 
vulgar ignorance that paints blue blue, or green green, and leaves 
no message beyond the impression that the hand that painted was 
the hand of a boor. 

The lesson to you is this : While exercising care in the selec- 
tion of your subject, its composition, and the effect under which 
you will paint it, you must think, and think seriously, of this 
vital question of colour. It is a question of the first importance, 
and probably the most profound of all the difficulties you have to 
encounter. If you are a colourist by nature, the time and thought 
you devote to the subject will not be wasted ; naturally, by thought, 
you will add something to the fineness of your gift. If you have 
but a poor appreciation of colour, it is all the more necessary to 
seek improvement by painstaking and persistent study. 

It has been said, and said with truth, that if you look for any 
j I particular colour in Nature, you will find it. If you search for 



COLOUR. 



49 



purple, you will discover purple; and if you want blue, Jhe blue 
will be sure to show itself. This curious and interesting fact in 
psychology accounts for the preponderance of certain colours in 
some artists' landscapes — a specific strain, as it were, running 
through them all, as particular notes in a musical fugue. We 
know a man's work by his predilection for a certain colour, yet 
the artist himself may be completely ignorant of the peculiarity. 

It is possible you may become colour-sick, i.e. lose your quick 
appreciation of colour. The only remedy is resolutely to exclude 
the offending pigment from your box, and to force yourself to 
paint the subject without it. It will be difficult, and almost painful 
at first. You will be trying incessantly to find it on your palette, 
but persevere until you have conquered this abnormal tendency. 
Then, when you are so master of it, you may indulge yourself 
with a little of the forbidden colour as a luxury. 

The rais on cTStre of p aintjng, in contradistinction to the 
arts, is the expression of colour, or rather the expression 
colour allie^wjith ibrm. It is a laborious task to secure some of 
the higher qualities of tone when using a full polychromatic 
palette. It has been done by Turner, even if at the expense of 
other artistic qualities. But do not allow any difficulties to drive 
you to seek that refuge of the destitute — painting in monochrome. 
It is obviously easy to obtain qualities of tone in black and 
white. It is true we may even suggest colour in black and white, 
and there are artists who claim to suggest colour by a mono- 
chromatic scheme. But do they succeed? That is a question I 
would ask you seriously to consider. They paint black or brown 
trees, and a grey sky made of flake-white and ivory-black, and 
thqr perhaps insert a spot of colour in the figure of an animal or 
man. Now, had you not received the suggestion through the 
form of the trees that they were trees, do you think you would 
feel they were green? I think not. You feel they are green 
I 



i! 



le other v / 
sion of .X X 



h'- 



A. 



50 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

because you know by their form they are trees. If the mass 
had not assumed the shape of trees you would not have arrived 
at the conception of any colour, but would only have per- 
ceived their blackness. The suggestion is offered, and you 
accept it, your intellect coming to the rescue of your sensation by 
a process of deduction. Were all art so colourless, what a 
monotony it would be; and Life minus colour — flowers, skies, 
seas, costumes, pageants, reduced to dull monochrome — ^would 
become a dreariness indeed. It behoves us, therefore, not to 
shirk the difficulties of colour, but so to use it that it becomes 

'\ / a pleasure; for the appreciation of colour is one of the joys 
X of life—one of its greatest chan^ It is our duty to cultivate 

^'^ '^ this faculty — ^so to understand its value that we ma y reveal its 

beauty to others, and wlych many, in their hurry of life, may 

/ have missed." ^ 

/ The greatest landscape is marked by the alliance of fine form 

/ with fine colour. Colour that is harmonious and just will always 

possess beauty. Forms should be enhanced and glorified by 

colour, and colour in turn should be ennobled by being enshrined 

in the most appropriate forms. It is said that one of the old 

/ masters declared that he would paint the head of a Madonna with 

mud, if he were given colour to put round it. 





A BhKKSHIRH .WHADOW. 

M<'JN\ THt I'.MNTINC BY ALFRl'D EAST, A.R.A. 



/^ 



i ■' 






CHAPTER VII. 

TREES. 

TREES are to the landscape what flowers are to the meadow, 
they decorate it. Who does not love trees? They are 
associated with us from the cradle to the grave. They 
mark the events and incidents of history. Thqr are the only 
living recipients of old-time stories. Generation after generation 
they have listened to the same story of love. They have 
sheltered from the sun and rain, the king and the wayfarer 
alike. They are planted as mementoes of great events. From the 
landing of Joseph of Arimathea to the coronation of our King, 
they have fulfilled this monumental quality. How many songs 
could we sing of trees? From tlbe oak, the ash, and the rowan 
tree, in every language, in every land, they are intimately associated 
with the requirements of man. With what joy does the traveller 
see across the dreary desert of hot sand, the oasis of palms, 
or the sailor see them rising in their verdant beauty on 
the lip of the horizon of the ocean! Shakespeare, Wordsworth, 
and a hundred others ^ speak of them. These writers have their 
favourites as Balzac had, when he called the black poplar the 
noblest of trees. One could continue writing of their dignity, 
grace, and beauty. It is our business, however, to paint them, 
and how difficult, how subtle one finds them ; loving them as one 
does, knowing them so well, one feels how wonderful they are, 
here caressing and enfolding the homes of mankind, or there 
standing out against the sky on some wide upland, strongs 

51 



52 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

simple, dignified, and great. Let us treat them with the respect 
they deserve, and learn to know them so well that we can enter 
into their moods, whether it be when the rude winter has torn 
from them their foliage, or when the spring gives them new growth, 
or in the sumptuous splendour of their summer adornment These 
peers of the nobility of Nature are entitled to the first place in the 
consideration of the landscape painter. He loves them for their 
kindliness, he respects them for their stately dignity. The great 
landscapists have expressed this love of trees; some have seen in 
them one quality, and some another. All have attempted to 
realise the essential place and position in their art. 

I have suggested in the chapter on pencil drawing that you 
should draw all kinds of trees. By this means you will learn the 
peculiar characteristics of their growth, under different conditions 
of soil and environment, and obtain greater knowledge for painting 
them. Having described how you should draw the contours, and 
the shape of their branches, and the shadows under their branches ; 
their construction, the manner in which the trunk supports the 
branches, I must now attempt to speak of how they should be 
\ / painted. The successful^ainting; of trees against the sky, I think, 

\ is one of the most difficult problems of art. 

You have already designed your picture as to the quantity, the 
space, and shape of your trees ; now you have to consider their 
colour and character. After you have blocked them in with the 
rest of your landscape, broadly and simply, as the whole ** lay in " 
must be, you may, at the next painting, paint the sub-masses with 
the rest of your picture; then next the smaller masses and so on, 
something like a pile of coins — the first painting broad like a 
crown, the next over it like a florin, the next like a shilling, a 
sixpence, and a threepenny-piece. That is how you paint a tree, 
each painting being a step nearer the realisation of your aim, 
which must be to paint your tree in exact relation to the land- 



V 




MORNING AT MONTREUIL. 

From the Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



^"X"*^ 




54 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 



I * 



X X 
xX 



scape in Nature, and on your canvas in exact relation to the rest 
of the picture. This is essential. 

The proper lighting of a tree is another word for modelling. 
Trees are rounded objects, and therefore must not be painted as flat 
tones . They are Hying objects and must be painted so as to express 
their vitality. That brings me to the point of their edges which 
come gainst the sky. In no part do they realise the sense of their 
vitality so much as where their moving leaves are marked against 
the sky. Here they are seen, and here their shape and action are 
most strongly felt. If we look at a photograph, the edges of the 
trees do not give you the feeling that the tree is a living thing, 
they are marked with hard precision against the light, like a solid 
building, and yet at the same ti me if we s eg^^^Htupn in Nature 
we hear the whisper of their leaves and know that they live 
and breathe. To express M^/, is a greater truth than the 
camera can reveal, and a higher form of realism. Of course, 
the edges will vary according to^HEIie speciFs^'of^trees, and also 
according to the different conditions of effect. For instance, trees 
against the light appear different to those upon which the light is 
shining. An oak against the setting sun is a very different 
object to a birch which is bathed in the full glare of sunshine. 
Again, the speed of movement of the leaves against the sky gives 
one a different impression. The elm moves slowly and so has 
a harder edge than the black poplars, which quiver in the 
"Teast breath of air, and must be so painted as to suggest that 
characteristic quality. If the eye follows the movement of the leaves 
they appear hard against the sky, but if you look at the tree, and 
not at the individual leaf, you will recognise the truth of what I 
say. For example, look at the plane-tree leaves which almost 
touch your window in your London home; you can mark their 
shape and colour ; but look at the plane-tree leaves on the opposite 
side of the street and you can only see the aggregate of their 



56 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

leaves. You know that the aggregate is composed of the same 
kind of leaves that are near you, and from your knowledge of 
that fact, you wish to paint them, but you cannot. What of 
the near ones, if the distant ones were so realised? You could 
not paint them more real than life. So remember this g^eat 
truth, that there is as much beauty in the aggregate of details as 
in the. details themserves. " ' ""' 

Let us watch the action of a leaf on a black poplar. It may 
first offer us in its movement a surface which reflects the sky, 
then as it turns from us, the thin edge is only seen, then 
it turns back again the reflective surface, and showing an angle 
by which its actual form and colour are revealed. These are 
phases, each affording us the reflective surface and the silhouette; 
this is but one leaf. If we bear in mind that all the leaves 
are moving more or less, you will come to the conclusion, if 
you think for a moment, that round the edge of the tree where 
the leaves are against the sky, the edge must be made up of 
an aggregate of these movements. They are also turning at 
different intervals of time. For instance, while one is a silhouette, 
its neighbour may be at the angle of reflection, and another showing 
the thin line of its edge where all the intermediate movements 
are going on. Now you cannot paint actual movement in your 
picture, but if you paint the edge of a tree which combines the 
sil houet te, the refl e c t ion, and the e^e of the leaf and other 
intermediate positions of the leaves, you will obtain the sense of 
their movement, which is such a desirable quality. The act of 
movement means life, and life interests us, for we are living beings 
ourselves. Dead things are abhorrent to us, and we put them out 
of sight. 

I remember an eminent painter saying to me, " I sg e foliage 
hard against the sky as an edged mass." I answered, "So do 
I, but I do not feel it so." 



..,x 



0. : 



58 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 




You may depend upon it that if you think that the imitation 
of Nature is the end of landscape painting, then I need not 
write another line, for no explanation is required, no directions 
needed. The painter is simply to sit down and paint what 
he sees ; if he does so, he has probably pleased himself, but he 
has deceived others. I mitation is n ot art, and in the i mitati on 
of things one loses his own personality, he is a menial, not a 
creator; and if he is willing to give up his authority over the 
created things which were intended for his use, he cannot have 
any hope, and there is no faith in him. The slavery of imitation 
is terrible. If the painter cannot give us something he feels in 
Nature that others have missed, why paint at all? There is no 
place for him. 

Look at a picture by Corot, Constable, or Turner, or any of 
the really great painters of landscape, and see how they suggested 
in their diflferent ways this sense of movement, which would be 
absolutely lost were we to imitate the actual and instantaneous fact 
of Nature at one moment of observation. The real value of an 
instantaneous effect lies in its suggestion of other effects likely to 
precede or to follow, but the copying of things at the moment of 
arrested action is absurd. This is revealed by the camera. For 
instance, the position of a race-horse in violent action seldom gives 
you the sense of movement It is simply the photograph of the 
fact, but does not convey to one the sense of speed, which is, after 
all, the principal fact to be recorded. The edge of a tree, as I 
have said, is a succession of soft and hard accents. In your first 
painting you will have painted the edge of your tree with a tone 
of colour half way between the tone of the tree and sky, a little 
lighter than the tree and a little darker than the sky. Never 
mind if it is smeared over the exact shape you desire. When you 
paint your sky you can correct that. This half-tone may be made 
of cobalt, rose madder and white, with a little yellow ochre to 




[S 






6o LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

qualify it It should be of a pearly grey — ^the tone which Lord 
Leighton used to say was the sub-toiie of Nature. Now this sub- 
tone at the edge of your tree is waiting for those accents caused 
by the varied movements I have described. The silhouette is the 
definite and darkest touch; and the leaf upon which the fullest 
reflection is seen may be painted with the highest light (Constable 
used almost pure white) and the sub-tone is the suggestion of the 
many, being seen on edge. By far the greater proportion are seen 
in that position than in silhouette or the angle of reflection, 
therefore this tone will express the greatest quantity. This may 
be after all but a clumsy explanation. You must study Nature 
for yourselves, I simply put you on the track. 

Note how Corot painted the edges of his trees by the simplest 
possible means, and Turner by reducing the intensity of his colour. 
Every painter has his own method, but all have the same end in 
view. Each must solve the difficult problem in his own way in 
seeking for the truth. 

Now let me speak of the '* bones " of the trees. See that your 
trunks and branches are solid things. Strong and hard by contrast, 
they, too, will help to suggest the movement of the leaves. Now 
comes the difficulty of the interstices, i.e. the light shining through 
the trees. See that they do not upset your composition, for the 
next greatest accent in a landscape to the human figure is the 
light seen through a tree, for it is generally in proximity to the darkest 
shadow. The right-angle of a branch and trunk, in the centre of 
your tree, with the sky beyond, forms a counterpoint in your 
picture, which, if not justly placed, will completely upset the 
balance of your composition. It is the most assertive thing in its 
whole appearance, and if it is necessary to include it to support 
the characteristic growth of your tree, be careful that it does not 
spoil your composition. You know that the colour of the sky 
seen between the interstices of the tree is the same colour as the 



62 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 



wide expanse you have in your picture. So it is in Nature; but 
paint it so, and immediately it will "shout." You must lower 
the tone, or you will spoil the ensemble of the work by unduly 
attracting the eye to one particular spot, and so destroy the 




STOW ON THE WOLD. (SOFT GROUND ETCHING.) 






breadth of your effect This is another example that the truth 
in Nature is not always truth in Art. You must reduce the tone of 
the sky as seen between the open spaces of your branches to give 
you the sense that it is actually of the same colour as the general 
body of sky, though, as I say, it is actually some degrees lower. 



TREES. 



63 







ON THE OUSE. 



One word more. The great advantage of painting your sky 
to suit your landscape (as described in another chapter) is that 
you can paint into the sub-tone, covering part and leaving part, 
and by so doing you advance that feeling of the movement of 
the leaves against the sky. 

You must, as I have said before, find out yourself, by careful 
study and observation, how this is to be done, bearing in mind 
that the greatest realism is the expression of the vitality and 
character of the thing painted. 



" / 



CHAPTER VIII. 
SKIES. 

IF you make a practice of painting a sky every morning with 
the regularity that you take your bath, you will find at the 
end of six months that you know something of its variations. 
Perhaps the most convenient medium for this purpose is water- 
colour or pastel, but do them in oil by all means if you can, though 
the time lost in setting your palette robs you of the limited time 
you have at your disposal, for the clouds are changing every 
moment. Half-an-hour is sufficient, for I do not want you to 
make the practice a fag, or to take too much of the energy you 
must reserve for your ordinary work. Therefore, if you devote the 
half-hour immediately before breakfast to this purpose, you will 
find it the most convenient time of the day. Be sure you draw 
your sky, and if you cannot finish it in the limited time, paint that 
part which is interesting. You can take a few notes in writing 
on your paper or your panel, as the case may be, of the character- 
istics you have not caught. They, with the bit of colour, will be 
most useful. Apart from their use as studies, you will find that 
the practice will widen your knowledge of what is likely to happen 
under certain atmospheric conditions. Do not forget to date your 
sketches and note the hour, and the direction and strength of the 
wind. If you paint a clear blue sky, you may make a study 
of its tone and gradation, its warmth or coldness. Or you may 
have one of thin high cirrus, where the detached cloudlets float 
miles above you, interesting individually, and still more interesting 
in their aggregate. You may note how they are lit, and how 

64 




iHH LONHLY ROAD. 



m:*)\\ t:;f. {'AINTing rv ALihhij past, a.i^a. 



SKIES. 65 

far the light impinges upon their edges, or influences the effect 
of their density, as shown by their opacity or otherwise. You 
may watch a wandering piece of cumulus moving at a lower altitude 
under the influence of a different current of air, and you will see 
how advantageous its form is in contrast with the mottled appear- 
ance of the cirrus. You will see the interesting phenomenon of 
one cloud passing under the shadow of another which has just 
intervened between it and the sun; and as it clears itself from 
its eclipse, you will note the revelation of its modelling by the 
contour of its shadow. 

You may find one morning high masses of cumuli, such 
as we see after rain, moving slowly and majestically across 
the sky, towering up and up, till their tops outvie the highest 
mountains, you will note their form and movement, their edges 
defined against the blue by a line which is felt rather than seen, 
giving them, with the shadow on the opposite side from the sun, 
their rounded forms. How nobly they sail across the sky, or, on 
a hot day, hang tranquilly in that ineffable blue which is so difficult 
to paint. You observe the distances between these masses; you 
see the perspective of one great cloud behind the other, how they 
slowly approach, till at length they form a great spectacle of white 
and soft grey. Through, their interstices you get a glimpse of 
the blue, made many times more intense by its isolation. 
As the day grows to noon, they pass along their celestial path 
till, in the evening, they shelter themselves on the line of the 
extreme distance, where the low sun lights them with his effulgent 
glory. Above the belt of long strata they lie, gradually changing 
from grey to gold, from gold to purple as the sun's rays 
slant upwards from behind, and gloom rests upon the purple 
hills. It is absorbing thus to watch a sky from dawn to sunset 
(say in September when the days are short enough to do so), 
and one may profitably devote a whole day to the study when 

K 



66 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

the sky is particularly interesting. In the sketches I have 
given you facing page 90, you will see that they all represent 
the same scene, but in different aspects, from dawn to sunset, 
and they illustrate not only what may be made of a common- 
place subject by the selection of an effect, as I have stated else- 
where, but the enormous importance of the relation of the sky 
to the landscape. 

Do each sketch at one sitting, which must of necessity be 
short. You will find a great deal to learn that you had not 
anticipated. You will see shadows, reflections, and reflected lights, 
all which, carefully observed, build up the wonder of your sky 
and, if painted well, cannot fail to be interesting and beautiful. 

Let me give you a few hints about painting a sky. In 
the first place you must, as I have just said, do it justice in 
one painting ; but before making the attempt, prepare your 
canvas with a coat of white, tempered with yellow ochre, which 
should be painted with crisp firm touches, using very little 
medium, the touch firmer and stronger as your work extends from 
the horizon to the zenith. Beware of a dead flat surface ; do not 
brush it too much, as in painting at all times your touch should 
be confident. After the preliminary coat of paint is dry, you may 
scrape off any unpleasant projections left by your brush at the 
previous painting, and you will have a very agreeable surface to 
work upon. Then with white and yellow ochre you paint it 
exactly as you have done before, taking care to cross the brush 
marks, and after you have done this you paint your blue into the 
wet paint. You will discover that your blue will be a little stronger, 
since it will mix with the wet paint which forms the ground. 

I will now speak of painting a plain blue sky, since I have 
already spoken of clouds and their treatment. The blue must, of 
course, depend upon the colour in Nature, and that which is in 
sympathy with your landscape; but, generally speaking, your sky 



^m 




68 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

palette is composed of the following: — ^White, yellow ochre, cobalt 
or French ultramarine, viridian, and rose madder or Venetian red, 
very much diluted with white. Now paint a touch composed of 
the first four. If you find it too intense a blue, add a little more 
white and yellow ochre and a mere touch of raw umber. If you 
find it too green add more blue and white. Then with different 
quantities of the slightest possible difference of colour, paint 
another touch by the side of the former; then paint one with a 
distinctly red side, another to the yellow side, another to the blue 
side, and another to the green side; then step back and see the 
general effect, which, of course, should be blue. At the horizon 
you will see no blue, or scarcely any; in its place use the 
slightest touch of raw umber or Venetian red and yellow ochre, 
according to the effect You must be careful, for you will find 
the merest touch of blue is too much, and is most extraordinarily 
deceptive. 

Your extremely distant sky should be painted with small, 
I independent touches, edge to edge, with the slightest possible 
difference of colour, very much diluted with white, but still 
a difference which can be detected upon very close inspection. 
These should be placed at the horizon, in a contrary way to the 
prismatic arrangement, and this method, instead of giving you a 
rhythm of colour, will give a feeling of vibration, because the 
tones will be very slightly contrasting or complementary, so that 
you will discover, although looking like a flat tone, it is really 
composed of many separated colours. This is one of the most 
difficult things to accomplish, and you will, no doubt, meet with 
many failures. You may get it too light or too dark at first, and 
too near in perspective; but never mind failure, try again, for 
when it is properly accomplished you will have given the impression 
of great distance, and of moving air, heated by the surface of the 
earth. You have now to join the colour of the horizon with the 




AN IDYLL OF COMO. 

FROi* THf PAINTINQ flf ALFRED EAST, A.itA, 

In tht p0ss.£thivft vj IZ, iL Mi^ttta^t* Eiq. 



SKIES. 69 

touches of blue you have already placed on your canvas higher up. 
The gradation must be very carefully done, still following the 
method of placing the colours side by side, increasing the area of 
the touch and the necessary slight alteration of colour, more blue 
and less of the warmer tints, until you join the blue, which is the 
general effect of the sky. Your warm touches are now more or 
less deepened with blue of slightly different shades, but of the 
same tone, until you reach the top of your canvas, where you can 
have large passages of plain colour. Now carefully look over the 
sky as a whole. You will probably see that your gradation is 
much more abrupt than in Nature. That is to say, your sky 
changes more suddenly from the distance (where it partakes more 
or less of the colour of the extrieme distance of the landscape) to 
the blue of the zenith. But that is as it should be; for if you 
take the relative space in Nature that you have taken in the 
picture between the horizon and the top of your canvas, you 
would find that the gradation in Nature was very small in that 
limited distance. By the quicker transition you obtain that sense 
of infinity which is a. greater fact and of more importance than 
the actual truth. 

I spoke of the necessity of painting a sky at one effort. I did 
so because of the difficulty of patching blue after it is dry. The 
difference of colour in drying makes it a most troublesome thing 
to do. For instance, when the painting of your sky is dry, and 
you paint upon it exactly the same colours which match it when 
wet, the change in drying, slight as it is, is sufficient to reveal 
the patch, and there is imminent danger of losing the aerial 
feeling which is its predominant quality, and having to do the 
work all over again. But of all things avoid a fiat sk^. There is 
nothing so miserable in landscape painting as a " ^f ^^ PJ^ ^^ ^^ q£ A^^ 
blue . No matter how beautiful and just the colour may be, if 
you cannot get away from the fact that it is paint and nothing 



70 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

but paint, if it fails to suggest to you the infinity of the sky, it 
is wrong. How little there is in the skies of Poussin, or Claude, 
or in later times, of Stanfield and others, to give the impression 
of this aerial quality. They are too often merely suggestive 
of a pattern of paint. How different are those of Turner, Cox, 
and Constable, which, though differing in their mode of treatment, 
all show in common, these qualities of infinity and distance. 
There are other means of painting a blue sky than that which I 
have described, I would not for one moment deny that, but I 
have described the manner by which I know from experience how 
these essential qualities may be obtained. 

In conclusion, I wish to draw attention to the t onal ** pitch '' 
of your sky. Since it is quite out of the question that you 
can get the exact tone of a sunlit landscape, it must be some 
degrees lower than Nature. It stands to reason that your sky 
must harmonise with Nature, and further the composition and 
colour of your trees and grass must also be in sympathy with 
the forms, as well as the colour, of your sky. And as you cannot 
alter the composition of your trees to suit your sky, your best 
plan will be to paint the forms and colour of your sky to suit 
your trees. That is why I advise you when laying in your first 
painting, simply to paint a preparatory ground for your sky, 
which is afterwards to receive its final painting. When your 
landscape is partly done, the preparatory painting at that stage 
will, of course, receive your careful attention. Don't be afraid of 
rubbing the foliage into the sky, and the sky into the foliage 
at your first painting. You will have ample opportunity of getting 
the character of the edge when you are painting the sky at a 
later stage, and then the very greatest care must be exercised 
in the matter. 

It is useless to lay down any definite rules on cloud forms 
suitable for any particular picture, because there are so many 



SKIES. 



71 



factors which govern and qualify them. The sky must be felt \ 
upon all surfaces which are capable of reflecting it, not only in 
the pooT of water, but from every blade of grass, from every flag 
by the waterside, from every leaf, roof, an^ That is what 

may be understood as being in sympathy with the landscape. 
Always remember that it is the reflected light of the sky added 
to the local colour of each object that makes up the general tone 
of the landscape. It is not only sunshine and distance that give \ 
it colour, but an aggregate of a million little reflections.* The 
essential truths of the sky are its immensity, its infinity, and its 
purity. Aim at securing these qualities, and you will have a fine 
sky. Let your landscape be in relation to your sky, and your sky 
to your landscape. In so doing you will certainly have attained 
some of the high truths which go to make up a worthy picture. 

• See chapter on " Reflections " (p. 77). 



/ 

r 



CHAPTER IX. 

GRASS. 

IT would obviously be stupid when painting a landscape, to 
paint every leaf and every blade of grass. We want the 
general character of the material, and that we cannot secure 
without careful observation of the factors of which it is composed. 

. Go into a meadow on a sunny day. If you look at the grass 
facing the sun, you will notice that it is of the most brilliant 
green. The sun shines through the uppermost blades, penetrates 
others through the interstices of the first, and reaches so much of 
the remainder that practically every blade is deluged with rays 
that filter through the very substance of each leaf and compel it 
to transmit its hue to the eye. Then turn and look in the 
opposite direction from the sun. You will see that the grass 
instead of being a bright green is of a silvery green grey; this is 
because you are standing at the angle of reflection of the majority 
of the blades, whith catch the light of the sky as it shines upon 
them, and not through them. Only here and there occasional blades 
show a rich green to qualify the general greyness. The aggregate 
of a field of grass is made up of infinite details of colour, and 
its character is affected by countless little reflections, whether of 
the deep blue of the zenith, or of a passing white cumulus cloud. 

Have you ever noticed, when a meadow is being mown, and 

you happen to face the sun, the rich hue of the standing grass, 

through whose stems the yellow-green light penetrates in a brilliant 

glow? Examine the same grass when it is cut and lies in long 

swathes behind the mower. How grey it now appears I The 

72 




I'Ht Ah-lbR.WATH. 

y\<(i^\ !Hi; {'AIMINC. BY Al FkLI) bAST, A.R.A, 



GRASS. 73 

infinity of leaves through which the sun awhile ago was freely 
shining, now reflects the summer sky at innumerable angles, and 
the result is the revelation of one of the most lovely combinations 
of colour in nature. 

It is important to remember the difference in colour of grass 
at dawn jind sunset. The grass in the morning is greyer than 
in the evening, because in the former the light is reflected from 
myriads of dewdrops, whereas in the latter the reflections are 
from dry surfaces. 

A difficult thing to paint is grass in perspective. One knows 
in looking across a wide meadow there is a considerable difference 
in appearance between the grass at your feet and the grass 
in the extreme and intermediate distances. As the material 
is so uniform in colour and texture, the difference is less 
perceptible than in the case of trees and other objects, which 
by their diminution of size add to the sense of distance, and 
are more easily placed in their proper perspective. But in a 
large flat grass field of even surface it is indeed difficult, 
and requires the greatest study and closest observation before 
you can realise the fact of its extent and its flatness. How 
many come to grief in this respect, and depend upon such 
aids as trees, cattle or anything of a known size to assist 
them to realise its area. In many cases if you took away 
these aids, you would have nothing left but a stretch of p lain 
green^ standing on ed^, with the complete loss of the sense of its 
being a level plain. How is this to be avoided? The grass in \ 
the immediate foreground, which is near enough for you to see if 
you look closely, is composed of many shades of green; some 
blades transmitting the light, others reflecting the tint of the sky, 
and others presenting their own local colour. You will also 
observe there are differences of colour as well in each blade, some 
darker or lighter, some deeper in tone or less pronounced. You 



74 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

will see here and there withered stalks and a hundred details 
which break up the mass. There are clover leaves, sorrel, 
dandelion, plantain, and many other weeds which, taken in the 
aggregate, build up the general colour. In your immediate 
foreground it is possible to realise one or two of the most 
apparent of these, but a little further off it is difficult, and further 
off still it is impossible. The intermediate distance must not be 
so broken as the foreground, and the extreme may be flat. The 
contrast of this flat paint to the broken paint of the foreground 
will be another aid to perspective. Other things, too, will help 
you, as for instance a cloud shadow, a distant church, or a 
winding brook or river. But none of these incidental objects 
should lessen your effort to realise the character of grass. 

It is quite an easy matter to get the exact colour of things 
close at hand. The representation of still life is comparatively 
easy, there being practically no room for dispute as to the local 
colour of the objects. For instance, some beech leaves in a glass 
of water can be imitated, so far as colour is concerned, by the 
merest tyro in art; but when the same leaves form part of a 
tree standing some distance away, the problem becomes a test 
of judgment and skill. 

Looking at the grass as a mass you are conscious that in 
the immediate foreground of your picture you must realise the 
feeling of all its differences of colour and texture, which is made 
up of a hundred subtle differences of material, the predominant 
colour, of course, being green. Now as you see these broken 
shades of green in the foreground in Nature you must break up 
your pigment into the various shades of green without any attempt 
to realise individual blades of grass. 

Do not mix your colours on your palette; take a little of 
each (pure) on your brush, and place them on the canvas. If 
you find the effect a little too cold, you can correct it by a 



GRASS. 75 

warmer tone in the next touch. If you find it too grey, you 
can lighten it by a little transparent oxide of chromium or 
cadmium, and so on ; but put the touches down separately 
and firmly, and unite them at a subsequent painting. The 
distance will be painted with a flatter tone, and will be of a 
greyer quality of colour. You will observe also that some portions 
of the grassy expanse are stronger in colour; more yellow and 
blue will then be required, and more vigorous green. Or it may 
be that some withered stalks alter the local colour, and you 
will want reds and yellows, with a dash of flake white, of course, 
to qualify the pigments. A bushy tuft occurs here, a smoother 
surface there, and so on. To represent the host of qualities 
which unite in the making of the whole field demands patient 
study of these and all such details. Grass grows up from the 
soil, but it does not follow that the paint should be put on in 
upright strokes all over the area occupied by it. Were it so, 
your picture would resemble green velvet. Some portions of your 
grass are indeed aggressively erect, but others lie prone. These 
latter, and more level patches, if carefully painted, impart greater 
individuality to the prominences of the upstanding grass. 

The accent of flowers can be taken advantage of with profit, 
also the red sorrel stalk and the nettle. These touches will be 
suggested by the means already described in the course of the 
first painting, or they may be added afterwards. If you notice 
passages that are too obtrusive and broken, it is a simple matter 
to flatten them down; but, as I have said, it is necessary to 
have these flatter passages. The distance can be made flatter, 
but let this be in your first painting after the rubbing in, and 
the next painting will consist in emphasising passages and intro- 
ducing here and there groups of details hitherto omitted. And 
do not overlook the rule that when shadows overlay your grass, 
the same method of broken colouring will be revealed in the 



76 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

shadow as in the open light, except that the tone is lower, and 
that the shadow, as such, will bring its special tint to the general 
effect If you do this successfully you will be astonished to find 
how nearly you express the general feeling of Nature. 

For painting grass I should use white, yellow ochre, French 
blue, No. 2 cadmium, transp. em^. ox. chrom"^., and rose madder; 
sometimes a warm grey of raw umber and white, a long-haired 
brush, and plenty of confidence and paint. 




MORNING SUNSHINE. 

From the Painting by ALFRED EAST, A,R.A. 
In the possession of Sir James Fair/ax. 



CHAPTER X. 

REFLECTIONS. 

IF you have been to sea you may have noticed that the colour 
of the water was mainly due to the reflection of the sky. 
The motions of the wind and ocean currents throw the waves 
into many angles, which reflect portions of the sky at various 
lines of incidence. If you cross the Channel, you observe a 
difference in the colour of the water when you face the sun or 
turn away from it. You know the water itself is the same, but 
it has varied with the appearance of the sky. The sea, like the 
land, derives its tints from numerous causes. The clouds, in all 
their transformations from dawn to sundown, affect the result, and 
to their reflections must be added the mutual inter-action of lights 
and shadows among the waves themselves. 

Have you watched the agitated surface of a rapid stream? It 
displays an immense variety of lights and darks, more baffling 
than anything else in natural phenomena. Its movement is so 
quick, the colours of the reflected objects are so diverse, as to 
render it almost impossible to portray its interlacing and inter- 
mingling forms. Only by the most persistent study, first in a 
series of drawings of a simple passage, and then of a more 
involved passage, can you attain thorough mastery of both facts 
and the method of treating them. Perhaps the simplest stage in 
the study would be an examination of the reflection of some 
individual object, e.g. a light-coloured pole standing by the edge 
of the water. It has, we will suppose, a background of dark 
green trees, which almost cover the area of its reflections. You 
will see the contortions of its shape produced by the swift altera- 

77 



78 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

tions in the surface of the watery mirror. At the base of the 
reflection, the line of the reflected pole is broken into quivering 
fragments. This is accounted for by the interruption of other 
reflections at other angles. You will observe that the movement 
of the reflected forms are coincident with the movement of the 
water, and at the edge of the stream the object is more defined; 
and as it gets nearer the centre it is broken up or confused by 
the more rapid movement. But, supposing the stream was still, 
the reflection would be almost a replica of the object. But, if you 
find it difficult to draw the reflection of the pole, your task is 
increased when you come to its background. You not only have 
to represent a light object against a dark space, but a confusion 
of many colours thrown across the moving surface. 

There are other conditions which lend attraction to the 
study of reflected trees in water. In the case of an absolutely 
still surface, which reproduces the scene distinctly, the reflected 
object presents a different figure, owing to the angle of vision of 
the object itself varying from the angle of reflection.* 

It is not necessary for my purpose to go very closely into the 
principle involved. My present aim is to encourage the student to 
observe, and he will reap ample reward in the many surprises of 
this fascinating research. From rough to smooth water you will 
find the reflection altered according to the motion of the water at 
the surface. Perhaps the most effective point, but not the most 
difficult to seize, is when the water is slightly agitated by the air, 
and the reflections are lengthened into long strips of colour to the 
foreground. The charm of this particular effect is perhaps most 
striking on large sheets of inland water. The surface may be so 
agitated as to produce lengthy reflections of sky tints, which create 
a more vivid feeling of liquidity than if the water were still. Take 
again, the reflected glare of the sun upon water on a sultry day. 

• The student might read " Light and Water," by Sir Montagu Pollock, Bart. 



REFLECTIONS. 79 

The heat has dimmed the mountains with a soft haze, and the 
sleepy lake lies like an inert mass of molten metal. The very air 
seems thick with heat, and all about you is a sense of its 
throbbing pulsation. Nothing seems to move except by the 
disturbance of the heat waves. A fish leaps, and the broken 
surface of the water reflects the sunshine in an instantaneous flash. 
Or you may have seen some floating rushes. The capillary 
attraction pulls up the water till it presents a reflecting surface to 
the sun, and reveals an edge of intense brilliance which it would 
be impossible fully to realise with paint. 

Have you noticed also the sun at noon on a hot August day, 
how its heat fills the air with a quivering mirage, how everything 
that is seen within a certain distance from the earth's surface seems 
to be vibrating? You actually see the heat, and its peculiar effect 
upon the lower sky, which, practically speaking, is clear. You 
wish to give the sensation of it in your picture. Every sky which 
is clear and big with a low landscape horizon gives in a more or 
less marked manner this sensation along its edge. At the zenith 
it may be quite calm and pure, a vast expanse of perfectly placid 
blue, but by noon along the hot fields you observe the heat 
shimmering and vibrating with a growing effect upon the flat 
fields, until the figures of the harvesters in the distance, and the 
cattle and the horses, are distorted by the strange radiation. The 
sun's reflection is sometimes caught in looking from a height upon 
a river between the trunks of trees. The light cuts out the 
substance of the intervening darks, and, in some places, where the 
trunk is slender, apparently divides it. This glare of intense 
sunshine cannot be entirely realised. As usual, a compromise must 
be made, and if that compromise gives you the feeling of the actual 
fact, then it is justified. I may say in passing, that the white of 
the palette does not express light. Break it with yellow (not mix 
it) and you will find that it suggests a higher key, although in 



8o LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

reality it is of a lower shade than the actual white pigment 
Similarly the juxtaposition of certain pigments, so broken that the 
predominant feeling of the colours is the same as that of a flat 
tone, may give one a sensation of vibration, although appearing in 
the general arrangement of colour values as a flat tone. 

Roofs of houses by reflection may reach a higher pitch 
of light than anything else in the landscape, and make a most 
interesting feature, and one which probably conveys the idea of 
sunshine better than any other detail of your composition. 

The beauty of reflected colour may contribute much to your 
design. I can recall the reflection of the sublime Fuji-yama 
across the water in the Lake of Hara, ending amid the 
interstices of the amber rushes at my feet. Beyond the mirrored 
blue of the sky, the snow peak, and the mystic grey of the shore 
gleamed a strip of pale rose colour. One would have supposed 
this to reflect the sky immediately above. But no ; it reflected 
another part of the heavens. Innumerable wavelets, rufiled by a 
passing current of air, had caught up the tint of a rosy cloud, 
and transferred it to a remoter part of the lake. 

The reflection from sunlit grass on the under parts of a white 
cow, combined with that of the sky on its back, is a puzzling 
thing in paint ; but it is far worthier your brush than the exercise 
of painting the cow in the shadow of a fold-yard, uncomplicated 
by reflected lights. I was once asked to criticise a picture of 
cows under an evening sky, and I made the comment that it was 
not painted from Nature. ''Why?'' inquired the artist. "Because," 
I replied, "you show no reflections of the eastern sky upon the 
surfaces which would in Nature throw them back to your eye.'* 
We admire the beauty of reflection in a crowded street on a wet 
afternoon. The lamps have just been lit, and they are repeated 
with many variations in the puddles. The pavement reflects the 
wayfarer, giving its own local colour and accepting others. 



REFLECTIONS. 8i 

On a bright day there is an enormous amount of reflected light 
from the sky, which subdues the colour and at the same time 
raises the pitch of light, the result being the loss of that richness 
one sees when the sky is grey. To view the full brilliance of colour 
in any country, you must see it under a grey sky. You have 
probably remarked the difference in this respect between England 
and the South. Not only is the landscape greyer by reason 
of the local colour of the component parts of the landscape, 
but it becomes so in consequence of the more pronounced light. 
A scarlet dress in an English scene looks brilliant, but the same 
object transferred to a street in sunlit Cairo would melt into its 
surroundings. In Egypt, the glare of the sun is so strong that 
the houses add to their native whiteness a blazing reflection which 
defies paint, and this circumstance drove many artists to darken 
the sky — a conventional device which only defeated its own end. 
The object which they failed to achieve by this means was to 
represent the all-pervading light and heat, which lend so distinct a 
feature to Egyptian scenery. So, again, the physical effect upon 
one's eyesight of reflected light in the desert, or on an Alpine 
snow-slope, imparts a sensation which endures in one's memory. 
But though that glow may be realised partially by words, its 
brilliance can be much less adequately conveyed by painting. 

Note the reflection of the grass upon the trunks of trees near 
the ground. By painting this reflection you will at once get rid 
of the hardness which most amateurs betray. 

Do what Corot did. Walk round your tree, examine it narrowly, 
and learn to know it thoroughly before attempting to paint it. 
Note that not only is the colour of the trunk altered by reflected 
light, but every leaf, while always in colour in sympathy with the 
sky, reflects light and colour according to its surfaces. For example, 
leaves with an absorbent surface, as the elm, do not reflect the 
sky as brightly as those with a smoother surface. And always 

M 



82 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

remember that the colour of a tree is built up by the aggregate 
of the colours of its leaves. You will have noticed how within 
the shadow of a white-washed wall across a sun-lit street, there 
gleams the reflection of the shining road. The light is reflected 
and re-reflected again like an echo. Remark also that the depth 
of water is indicated by the character of the reflections on its 
surface. Shallow water reveals the colour of its bed within the 
reflection of .dark objects. Note on a rainy day the hundred 
phenomena of the wet streets, and you will see things that will 
come to you as revelations. The other day I saw in a river 
a submerged boat. I perceived distinctly its ribs and seats. 
Without changing my position, when I half closed my eyes, 
I saw nothing but the reflection of the sky. Upon the same 
factor of sky reflection depends the just modelling of a tree and 
its branches, and you should not set out to reproduce foliage 
before you have conscientiously studied the action of reflected 
light. 

A thousand things in Nature are beautified by reflections, which 
give animation and vitality. Reflected light makes the edge of a 
stagnant pond sparkle like a necklace of diamonds. It touches 
the scythe which severs the dank grass; it illuminates the ferrule 
of the carter's whip until it glistens like the sceptre of a king; it 
vivifies your subject, and gives a soul to your picture. It should 
always manifest its presence. It is easily forgotten in the studio, 
but not so readily when one faces Nature. There is no excuse for 
the painter, let his scheme be ever so decorative, who neglects the 
aid of a quality which often adds to, and can never detract from, 
the dignity of his work. If I may so define it, it announces 
the sympathy and unity of Nature, 

"Kissing with golden light the meadow green, 
Gilding the stream with heavenly alchemy." 




CHATEAU GAILLARD. 

FMOM trie PaihTimcj flV ALFRED EASr^ fi. fl.A^ 



CHAPTER XL 

DISTANCE. 

THE colour of distant landscape varies in a thousand ways, 
according to the conditions under which it is seen. In 
Italy, for instance, a distance may be supremely blue, 
while in England it may be a varied commingling of tender 
greys. In this country the distance often merges into the sky, 
so that it is impossible to see the line which marks the actual 
division. In Scotland, on a clear autumn evening, when looking 
towards the sun, the distant hills are often of a simple tone 
of deep purple ; but with the low light of the setting sun shining 
upon them, every detail of the variegated cultivation, scraps of 
rock or patches of heather, etc, are revealed. We know how 
distant these objects are in Nature, but how to realise that sense 
of distance when painted in this high key of colour is a most 
difficult problem. We know that certain objects in Nature are 
at such-and-such a distance from us, and our knowledge of the 
fact prevents us from depending upon the sense of judgment by 
colour. We do a mental sum in miles instead of making a close 
study, as we should do, of the difference of colour values. The 
diminution of form is resorted to before we begin to think of the 
difference in colour. This arises from the fact that it is so easy 
to judge the size of a known object, such as a house or figure, 
and from that we almost unconsciously express our opinion. I say 
"almost,'* since it is not always the case, for we frequently hear 
the exclamation from someone who gazes from a height, " How 
small the people look ! *' This is an example of the constant 

83 " '^ 



84 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 



} 



! I 



I 
/ 



appeal to scale as a proof of distance. The road winding through 
a valley, a row of poplar trees, or distant houses are tangible facts. 
They diminish in form as they recede, at the same rate under all 
atmospheric conditions. But what shall we say of colour which 
is governed by conditions of atmosphere in its wonderful changes 
from dawn to sunset? Not for an hour is the colour at any 
given distance the same. Almost imperceptibly it changes in 
sympathy with the sky, and vouchsafes fresh revelations of character 
as the general volume of light increases and wanes through the 
long summer day. Observe the shadow which started with a 
long line down the hillside, creeping on till it hides itself behind 
the brightening trees, and throws itself like a blue-purple line 
across the winding road. The cottages, which were dark before, are 
now white as marble patches on the sapphire background of the 
sky. The river, which wound below the hill in modest grey, now 
flashes back the burnished gold of mid-day, whilst the sun marches 
triumphantly on its course, each step adding a new beauty in place 
of each departing charm. The glamour of heat makes the distance 
magical. It vibrates and scintillates through and over all things, 
and gives mysterious changes to the scene we saw hours ago in 
the young light of the morning. It fills thfe landscape with a 
glistening flood of reflection. Every leaf in the foreground which 
holds its face upwards laughs back to the glory of the sunshine, 
and the far-sweeping distance throbs in its strange effulgence. 
There are no shadows visible now, except from the near objects, 
as the sun is high above us, and the whole of the distance is 
bathed in light. We are struck by the breadth and beauty of 
illumination, but to convey the sensation by our painted canvas 
is an end more easily desired than attained. 

One should notice the colour effect of this heat glamour, in its 
multitudinous^"" variations. The artist should absorb it into his 
memory, for it is infinitely more beautiful than we deemed possible. 




EVENING SONG. 

FflQ« TP+r PAiNfiMa D* AiLFRED EAST. A.R,A 



DISTANCE. 85 

I know of no master of the old school who has attempted to 
conquer this problem. I know of few pictures in Europe 
which, since landscape painting became an independent art, have 
adequately expressed the wonder of it. Vet it is evident, to the 
observant eye, almost every summer day; it is, perhaps, one of its 
most familiar effects. It is known to all, yet painted by few. I 
would not counsel any student of landscape painting to attempt it 
at first, particularly in its influence on distant colour, until he has 
overcome the less formidable effects. Let him select an effect when 
the shadows reveal the modelling of the trees, o r lay their grey 
veils over hill or road. He will find it hard enough in all 



conscience without essaying the most difficult Distance under any 
conditions is sufficiently baffling. It is a subject that demands, 
yet repays, the most diligent study. A beautiful distance which 
leads the eye through and beyond the painf of a landscape, 
is one of the charms which unfailingly appeals to the lover of 
Nature and Art. 

I will endeavour to furnish you with a few hints that may be 
profitable and instructive. Let us imagine a landscape comprising 
trees and a grass foreground, across which a path winds 
over the ridge of a field in the middle distance. Stretching 
among its undulations, a river skirts the sloping field and is 
then hidden by intercepting trees or the elevation of its bank. 
At the back, the grass fields and ploughed lands recede towards 
the sky line. We know that grass afar off is green; it is com- 
posed of the same material as the grass at our feet, and the 
natural inclination is, of course, to judge the colour by our know- 
ledge of this familiar fact. But let us take a test case. Here is a 
hillock close to our feet. If we lower our face, so as to bring the 
grass of the foreground on a level with the grass lands of the 
distance, we find our conception of the colour of the latter com- 
pletely upset. It is a grey, and not green, and of such a quality 



86 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

as to suggest the distance between them. Between the two 
colours thus juxtaposed lie all the variations of tone that inter- 
vene between the nearest material and the more remote. The 
nearest grass is the positive green of its local colour. The colour 
of the distant grass may be obtained by white, cobalt, yellow 
ochre, a touch of rose madder and raw umber; and when seen 
through a haze (an effect so difficult to paint), you will find that 
yellow ochre, cobalt, and the least suspicion of rose madder (all 
suppressed, of course, with white) will approach the tone. But 
only experience can tell the exact proportions of each colour 
suitable for the purpose. The lower sky must be painted at the 
same time as the extreme distance. You may have observed that 
these are nearly the same, the alteration of texture and treatment 
being all that is necessary to suggest the difference. 




A MIDLAND VALLEY. 

From the Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



CHAPTER XII. 
SELECTION AND TREATMENT OF A SUBJECT, 

THE raison cTStre of the existence of the landscape painter is 
that he^n discern and reveal to us beauties in Nature 
which'^cannot be revealed by the sister arts. He delights 
in his expression pf Nature, and trusts that he may interest 
others; but if he is a true artist he is not over anxious on that 
score. Great work is always in advance of public appreciation. It 
has been so in the past, and is likely to be so in the future. 

The selection of a subject is a problem which faces the painter 
at the outset of his work. No matter how beautifully a picture 
may be executed, if its subject has been filched from the domain 
of literature or music, it is, from the highest standpoint, a 
failure. When you go to Nature to select a subject, remember 
there are others, employing other means of expression, who also 
wish to tell the story which she inspires. Bearing this in mind, 
you may be able to find some subject which can only be 
expressed suitably by the painter, and with that conviction you 
should have confidence sufficient to carry you through to a suc- 
cessful issue. Therefore if you have a method of expression 
different from (though not necessarily better than) that of the 
poet, or musician, you must learn in what that difference consists, 
lest you all unwittingly stray into their domains. I do not say 
you should not paint a literary subject, but you should not paint 
it merely to express its literary aspect. You can, or ought to be 
able to, add to the literary allusioQ new meanings conveyed by 
the charm of form and colour. 

87 



88 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

Excepting what I have said, it is your privilege to take what 
you want from Nature, you are free to make selection from the 
material before you ; but be sure your selection is such as can be 
best expressed by painting. Therein lies your responsibility. In 
the matter of selection, too, there arises the problem of the 
possible overcrowding of a picture. The artist feels he cannot paint 
everything, and the question is — ^what s/ui// he paint? He is 
forced to make his selection from subjects in his district, and as 
he descends to details, the task of selection becomes more and 
more difficult. Half-a-dozen artists may paint the same subject 
under the same conditions, and yet how different are the results 1 
That is because one has been influenced by one thing, which 
specially appealed to him, and the. others have been each 
affected by other qualities. Every result will be more or less 
like Nature, but all will differ from each other. Now imagine 
these six artists painting the same subject, but each selecting for 
himself the particular effect under which he would paint it; the 
difference then would be very much more marked. One might 
think that the early morning effect best suited the simplicity of the 
landscape, another the light of noon, while a third might feel that 
the evening glow of colour gave the best effect to the material. 

I have painted eight sketches of the same subject under 
different effects to illustrate my meaning. (See facing p. 90.) 
These sketches will probably bring home to you the truth of the 
responsibility of the artist in the treatment of his subject, and the 
particular effect under which he elects to paint it. The selection 
is left to his discretion entirely ; it is for him to say which of the 
effects from dawn to sunset he will choose. If I ventured to give 
him any advice at all, it is simply to say, paint the effect 
which best harmonises with the landscape — that which most 
enhances the beauty of its leading characteristics. In this 
selection he will show what stuff" he is made of, for, as I have 



SELECTION AND TREATMENT OF A SUBJECT. 89 

said, he is a free agent, and Nature offers such an ample choice 
that there is no excuse for failure. The artist who loses his 
opportunity may attempt to shelter himself behind the assertion 
that his picture is like Nature. There are many bad pictures 
very like Nature in some respects; but such a claim is inadequate, 
for the painter may have represented Nature in her worse mood, 
and under the most unsuitable conditions. It is absolutely neces- 
sary that the subject for painting should be selected with this 
consideration fully borne in mind. You cannot shirk your respon- 
sibility, so do not rush to a decision lest you have to beat an 
ignominious retreat. 

The first aim, then, in the selection of a subject for painting | 
must be that your subject conforms to the limitations and con- 
ditions of your art, and it should be such an one as cannot be 
better expressed by any other branch of art. 

Secondly, see that you paint your subject under conditions that 
will best bring out its special characteristics. 

Next we must consider what are the qualities essential to 
support its characteristics, and what are non-essential. Nature 
is so prolific in her offerings that selection becomes an artistic 
quality of the first order. It is astonishing what one can 
see m Nature ii' one is predisposed to look for it. Some 
painters see Nature almost monochromatic, others see it 
polychromatic. One sees the immensity of its details and 
analyses its component parts. One may look for the big facts, 
and another for the little ones. One is moved by the sim- 
plicity of Nature, and another by its complexity. Perhaps the 
highest and rarest gift is the power to see the big things of 
Nature, the real essentials, those which reveal and stamp upon 
the mind of man those fundamental qualities by which it is 
expressed. If an artist can so discipline himself when painting 
from Nature as to accept only those things which are great and 

N 



90 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

characteristic, and paint them in their true relation to each other, 
i.e. in their just values, then his pictures will possess that quality 
so difficult of definition which we call " style." Let me caution you 
never to be tempted to paint a landscape because of some 
accidental prettiness in it Such an impulse is alwa3rs dangerous, 
and sometimes fatal, to the success of your work. I have known 
a person to paint a six-foot picture in order to include a distant 
mill or church. If he had reflected for a moment that this 
church or mill covered exactly one square inch within twenty- 
eight superficial feet, he might have seen at once the foolish waste 
of his effort. Do not be tempted by anything, no matter how 
charming it may be in itself; remember it can only be beautiful 
for your purpose in so far as it assists your general scheme. 

I have said that you should not try to embody in painting an 
idea that may better be expressed by music or literature. But 
you may of course go to Nature with a preconception, such as a 
sentiment of dignity or repose. This sentiment may have been 
begotten in your mind by some suggestion in poetry or music, 
a suggestion which seemed to you not fully realised by them, 
and which you felt you could better express in painting. With 
such an idea in your mind you may go to Nature for the materials 
to realise it. You will not find these materials in conjunction, 
and you may not find them close at hand, but knowing what you 
want, you will be able with patience to bring them together 
so that they appeal to the spectator with the convincing truth that 
they were actually in conjunction in Nature. This is a high 
quality in the art of landscape painting. The artist is bom, 
not made, but to attain such success, he must go through the 
toil of study until he is confident that he knows enough of Nature 
to transpose her forms if necessary to his requirements. " May 
I," you ask, " take a tree from this place because its form and 
outline suit my composition, and put it here, in the place of a 




1. STORMY Dawn. 








LAULY .MORNl.NG. 



STUDIHS OH HFFlfCT, 




3. NOON. 




» OLOl O SIIAbOVl . 



STUIXLS or hh>~bCl. 



■nW- t»^ .*1 V-J*., « .««.*JM>W^.-7* .>.Tl«>»--l"f>ni'ITM«-«WT-^' ■»»IIIMI ■ 




S. S10KM. 







STUniHS OH f:HHl:CT. 




1 MOONLIGHT. 




K NIGHT. 



sruniLs OF tFFhcr. 



SELECTION AND TREATMENT OF A SUBJECT. 91 

tree in Nature that is not so suitable to my purpose?" Yes, 
you may; there is no law forbidding. You have as much right 
to replant your tree as the peasant who planted it there originally. 
Only see to it that your transferred tree appears as if it naturally 
grew there ; let it be lighted at the same angle as the one it displaced; 
let its shadow have the correct form and extent; let the aerial 
perspective be identical with other trees in the same pictorial 
plane ; let the painting of it be as confident as the rest of your 
landscape. Then you will probably elicit the remarks from those 
who see the picture, **What a charming placet" *'What a 
delightful scheme ! " etc. People will often visit a spot where 
some famous landscape has been painted; they see that the 
material is there, and that the picture gives one a true impression 
of the place, but there is very little like the actual arrangement 
of those materials. I have been sorry for some who, having 
taken a long journey, discover that the charm of the picture 
they had admired rested not altogether in the natural beauty of 
the scene, but in the art of the man who has transmuted the 
scattered material into one precious unity. This is the function 
of art, to endow man with an authority to use Nature. 

Though the selection of a subject is one that requires 
discrimination, a fine work of art is not altogether dependent upon 
the subject, no matter how beautiful that may be, but rather upon 
its treatment. For example, we may see pictures of Venice which 
realise the facts of that beautiful city to the fullest, but they 
cannot for one moment be compared to the wonderful glamour of 
one of Turner's works. He has treated his subject so that it 
exceeds in beauty the most wonderful effects in Nature. In 
his treatment of the facts of Nature they become transmuted, 
and that which is apparently poor and sordid becomes glorified 
and grand. No doubt the treatment of a subject depends upon 
one's temperamental attitude toward Nature. That is well, for as 



92 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

I have said before, it is this personal quality that makes the 
diflferent expressions of art so interesting and stamps upon them 
individual character and distinction. 

In the eight sketches which illustrate this chapter, you will see 
that I have represented the same subject (a very simple one) in its 
varying effects from dawn to sunset. There is little or no difference 
in the arrangements of the trees and fields, the bridge and water, 
yet how great the contrast between No. i and No. 8. These 
sketches give you suggestions of the possibilities by which any 
subject can be painted in different ways. But had I selected 
a finer subject, the result would, probably, have been still more 
interesting. If the illustrations show you the outward form of 
Nature under different conditions which reveal the subtleties of 
morning and evening, with but little material by which to express 
their peculiar glamour, how much more beautiful would the dawn 
or sunset be when associated with really fine material, which would 
assist the peculiar qualities one associates with these fascinating 
moments. Note, for instance, the real background of Turner's 
''Sun of Venice going to Sea." Revealed by the camera, one sees 
a row of buildings, interesting enough as ordinary dwelling-places, 
with all the hard details of their construction; but with Turner, 
they are almost lost by the glamour and mystery of the morning, 
wherein a thousand thoughts and associations of ideas crowd 
into our minds which are absent in the photograph. The glamour 
was not created by the accurate and faithful delineation of the 
material, but by that magic of treatment which raises it to the 
splendour of a work of art. I am fully aware that my readers 
cannot all be Turners; but they may cultivate that insight of 
Nature that can see possibilities of splendour in the ordinary 
landscape around them. 




THE "SUN OF VENICE" GOING TO SEA. 
From the Painting bv J. M. w. TURNER, R A. 




VENICE FROM THE LAGOON. 

From a Photograph by Alinari, Florence. 



CHAPTER XIII. 
PAINTING FROM NATURE. 

A GREAT deal of discussion has taken place as to the advan- 
tage or otherwise of painting large pictures direct from 
Nature. A school, calling itself the ''plein air'' school, 
made this principle their party-cry. There may have been a 
reason for this, as landscape painting had become to a large 
extent a mere formula, a combination of recipes handed down 
by the old conventionalists, and had the odour of the studio; 
it wanted a breath of fresh air to revivify it. The ''plein 
air'' school did, in some respects, accomplish this, although its 
methods may have been pushed beyond legitimate limits ; but all 
the faults combined of the new school were better than the artificial 
procedure of the older method. Painters awoke from their 
lethargy, and felt that in the freedom and individuality of 
the example of Constable and others a new era had arrived, in 
which it was possible for art to make advances parallel with pro- 
gress in other departments of human achievements, though it was 
years before the more natural attitude received its due recognition. 
Artists now posed their peasants in the open air, and painted the 
effect of sunlight upon them, from immediate observation, and 
studied with direct vision the subtle effect of light, shade, and 
colour. Landscape painters took out their large canvases to 
Nature, and painted the subject before them on the spot. The 
difficulties were not lessened. But the question arose : '' Was 
it possible by this method to secure the freshness of Nature, the 
sense of its atmosphere and illumination?" 

93 



94 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

Undoubtedly it was; but difficulties beset the path of these 
men, which have still to be faced and overcome. The great 
danger was of following the changing light instead of painting 
an effect of the moment. It frequently happened that, in 
the large landscapes so painted, the effects of sunshine were 
crossed, that is, that instead of being positive as in a sketch, they 
were distributed or expressed with more or less hesitation and 
lack of definite purpose. It was difficult to avoid falling into this 
error. The temptation was always present to paint the thing one 
saw at the moment, forgetting that five minutes later the sun 
would be blazing upon a surface which was now in shadow. If 
the effect of light on that portion of the picture were true to 
Nature, by the time you had painted it, the effect in another 
portion of the picture would be false. The only way out of the 
difficulty was to paint for a short time every day while the effect 
was on, at the same time correcting the values and having the 
courage to retain them while finishing the picture. Of course, 
this plan would not insure that you had the colour scheme before 
you long enough to get a satisfactory result, but you would have 
your sketches to keep you right in respect to the large masses of 
your subject. If you ventured in the spring to paint a picture of 
apple-blossom, probably you would find that the blossoms would 
have faded before the picture was done.* Or you might paint a 
subject that mainly depends upon its colour. The rain descends, 
your large canvas is brought indoors, and by the time the weather 
has again become suitable, the whole of your effect has changed, 
it no longer offers the attractive combination of colour which 

♦ I remember a painter, who was a detennined " sticker " to Nature, starting a picture of apple- 
blossom. He commenced his picture well ahead of the full development of the flowers, and with 
dogged determination made up his mind to ** go for it" He painted the blossom with painstaking 
efforts to realise it according to his ideal of perfection. Conscientiously he altered his picture with 
the changing aspects of Nature, till, at length, the blossom vanished, the full-grown leaves appeared, 
and the young fruit was developed. When I saw the picture finished it was called "Gathering Apples" I 







( <.'• 



A GLEAM BEFORE THE STORM. 

From the Paintimo by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



PAINTING FROM NATURE. 95 

had induced you to paint it. Such are the difficulties one has to 
contend with in painting a large picture from Nature. The diffi- 
culties, of course, diminish with the reduction of size of your 
canvas, since you have a greater command over the smaller area. 
If, therefore, you care to make the experiment of painting, say a 
five- or six-foot picture, direct from Nature, you should, in the first 
place, make sure that the subject is not liable to rapid change. 
When you have discovered one that excites your enthusiasm, start 
by drawing an outline of your composition in charcoal, using as 
big a stick as possible. When you have done so satisfactorily, 
re-draw over the lines with a lead pencil, then brush off the 
charcoal ; but before doing so, it is as well either to rub your 
canvas down with pumice stone or wash it with benzine to 
take off the greasiness of its surface before starting. That had 
better be done before you draw upon it. 

Now since you have made your drawing you can begin to 
paint. Set your palette generously. Don't, for heaven's sake, 
use a starved palette I Be prepared, if I may so express it, to 
waste all your colour sooner than get a thin picture. Have your 
dipper big enough to take a large brush. Assuming then that 
you have set your palette with plenty of white, and the colours 
arranged as I have already described,* start to paint with con- 
fidence. Work freely from your shoulder, with your large canvas 
upright and at such a height that you can work standing — that 
is, the centre of the canvas should be a little lower than the 
palette hand, so that each part can be reached without fatigue. 
Paint in your large masses broadly — ^which you will observe 
in Nature the more readily by half closing your eyes — but in 
their absolutely correct values and right relation to each other ; 
look for the contours of your lights and darks, then paint 
fearlessly and frankly. Do not at this stage worry about details, 

• See Chapter III., "Sketching from Nature" (p. 14). 



96 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

but look for the large things, remembering that the shape of one 
mass forms the shape of the mass of another. For instance the 
outline of the trees describes the form of the light of your sky. 
Your subject must be reduced to its simplest proportions. Broadly 
speaking, it will comprise but two or three salient quantities. The 
darkest are your trees, the lightest your sky, with the grass forming 
a middle tint. Of course this remark is merely a general one. 
These masses may, and will, vary according to the subject you 
are painting. But what I insist upon is, that in the preliminary 
stage of your picture you paint the effect that you wish to secure, 
and as you cannot begin with details, the only plan is to block in 
the masses with a big brush while the effect is on. This should 
be done at a single painting if possible. 

Do not trouble about anything else. If for example you cannot 
paint the whole of the foreground, paint a passage of it, so that it 
records the exact colour in relation to the trees above it; and pro- 
ceed in like manner with the sky. It is essential that all these things 
which are chiefly affected by the rapidly changing effect must receive 
your attention at the moment, a splash of colour of the right tone 
is better at this stage than the careful drawing of the contour of a 
branch, for the one effect is transitory and the other will wait. 

Beforeyo u commence a large picture, I should strongly advise 
yo u to stud y your subject for some days, and to see it under 
v arious aspe cts and conditions. It is not pleasant to discover, 
when the picture is half finished, that it has not been painted 
under the best effect. Such study is not lost time, for apart 
from your definite purpose, there is the knowledge you gain of 
Nature. You become so intimately acquainted with your subject 
that you know how it is put together, and of what it is composed. 
You should also make sketches in colour under the same con- 
ditio ns you elect to paint your picture, and also make pencil 
drawings to familiarise you with its forms. Do not think such 




AFTER THE F§T£. 

From the Paintinq by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



PAINTING FROM NATURE. 97 

energy is misspent. Curb your impatience to get at your picture ; 
I know it requires an effort to do so, but believe me, the wider your 
knowledge of your subject prior to painting it on your canvas, 
the greater are the probabilities of success. I would almost go 
as far as to say that you should know it well enough to paint 
it from memory, but that would obviously be travelling beyond 
the range of painting direct from Nature. The advantage of 
painting from Nature is that you gain confidence. Confidence 
comes of knowledge, and that means spontaneity, one of the 
qualities which can be worth nothing if it is not obtained by 
intense consciousness. 

You have now, we will suppose, your six-footer covered — never 
mind how roughly or how broadly, as long as you have correctly I 
laid in your values. I do not know if it is necessary to explain I 
what I mean by values. As we use the term in art, it means the j . 

truth of one tone in relation to another as compared with Nature. ' \ 

For example, if I pitch my picture as near as I can to the pitch ^ - 

of Nature, and paint one passage exactly of the same intensity or ^ * 

tone as the same passage in Nature, I have struck the key , as it N. ^ 

were, in which my tune must be played. I can, of course, trans- 'v 

pose it by striking a new key. I can paint the passage I speak ^V- 

of in a lower tone, but all the other tones in the picture must be , 

lowered in the same relation to one another as they are in Nature. * \ 
For instance, I call the pitch of Nature " A." Say that in Nature 
it is glowing sunlight, and that it is impossible for any pigment 
to reach so high a key of colour, I am forced to lower my key to , 
"F." In Nature all colours are in relation to "A,'' and in my 
picture, in which the "A'' has been reduced to " F," all my tones 
must, of course, be in relation to "K" If there is 40 per cent, 
difference between the light and shade in Nature, there must be 
40 per cent, difference between the light and shade of my picture, 
no matter what the pitch of my picture may be. 
o 



98 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

At this moment, do not concern yourself with finish ; you have 
meanwhile presented your subject in its simplest proportions. If 
it has been expressed in a high key (and I should always advise 
your doing so), the various masses of colour should be in exact 
relation, and the resulting harmony gives the quality of tone. 
Step back fifty or sixty paces from your canvas, and you will be 
pleasantly surprised to find (if these conditions which I insist on 
be observed) how like Nature it is, for the distance in diminishing 
its size has made you unaware of the absence of details. Your 
picture should now wait till it is dry. You have, I hope, painted 
it with a generous brush, and very little, if any, medium. You 
have put on the paint with due regard to the texture of the 
material before you, and in order to prevent cracking, two courses 
are open to you — either follow the method as described, or con- 
tinue your picture while it is wet, which is the more difficult to do. 

The danger of cracking arises generally from the super- 
imposition of fresh colour upon a tacky or half-dried surface, more 
particularly in the case of a fast-drying paint over a slow one- 
The fault of cracking is not caused by the inferiority of paint or 
of medium, but by carelessness or indifference in the actual process 
of painting. The safest way, when painting a large picture from 
Nature, is to let it dry thoroughly after you have finished the 
laying-in, and see that it is thoroughly dry before you begin to 
work upon it again. Flake white dries in a few days, but as it 
dries from the surface it may mislead you ; although it appears 
to be quite dry, you will find that it is only superficially so, and 
is not solid underneath the skin. On the other hand, if you use 
zinc white you know that if it is dry on the surface it is solid 
underneath. The advantage of flake white is that it works more 
freely and is more elastic than zinc, although it yellows more 
quickly by time, while zinc white, when quite hard, has less 
elasticity, and its brittle quality lays it open to some objections. 



PAINTING FROM NATURE. 99 

I use the new flake white (see p. 10), which, I think, has some 
of the good qualities of both without their drawbacks. If you 
have used this white, which dries from the bottom, you can, where 
necessary, scrape off any obtruding brush marks that have been 
left in the excitement of making the ibatiche, or first rub in. If 
you use the ordinary flake white, which dries from the top, you 
must be careful in scraping lest you make an ugly scar, which 
will afterwards be difficult to disguise. A cuttle-fish bone is safer 
to employ than a scraper, since it grinds down the surface evenly. 
You must now "oil out" your picture with a little poppy oil, 
rubbing it well in and wiping off" all that is superfluous. Then, 
with as big a brush as possible, you may recommence the correc- 
tion of your masses. In this stage of your picture, keep it well 
under your command. Do not under any consideration attempt to 
finish it or any part or portion of it. Still direct your chief 
attention to the ensemble, and disregard details. Kee]^thQ.^!?hoLe 
thing as simple and as fresh and spontaneous as possible . Do not 
be afraid, and do not hurry; and if your progress is apparently 
slow, never mind. You have made a real advance. A bad work 
is more often the result of hasty and ill-considered finish than of 
defective skill. Continue to paint thoughtfully, closely observing 
the essentials, the bi g facts o f thetruth 9^ J^gj^jfj'^^ shade, of the 
relation of^cokmLJto colour, of contour to contour, modellinef the 
branches^fjajUlJjIges, painting with broken colour your foreground 
of grass with plenty of paint, so treating it that the brush marks 
will suggest the material. Always remember that each touch 
must have a meaning, some useful purpose to serve towards 
your desired end. As^you_paint you also draw. The brush must 
develop the truth of form as well as of colour. You are, at this 
stage, building up as it were the various surfaces for the reception 
of a final finish, and that will evolve itself without effort. Your 
picture will finish itself, for finish is simply the climax of self 



W^P^PiPKP^P" 



100 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

criticisms and of careful balancing of effects and relations in 
comparison with Nature. The treatment of Nature in art is 
greatly a matter of the personal temperament of the painter. If 
an artist is attracted by the small things in Nature, which are no 
doubt in themselves very beautiful, he will seek to reproduce them, 
and the result will, in the estimation of those who are in the 
habit of looking for little things, be very satisfactory and highly 
finished. But if these details are of no service in the expression 
of the large essential verities, then they are worse than useless. 
Aim at the great things, which include the details, making them 
subordinate as in Nature, and placing them in due relation to the 
whole. If on the other hand you concern yourself with petty 
though possibly charming trivialities, they may worry and fret you 
because they hinder your appreciation of what is great. 

In correcting the surfaces where the brush marks are not 
consistent with the material represented, you must bear in mind 
that there is a perspective of texture. For instance, the extreme 
distance in the sky and landscape must not show the coarse 
texture of the foreground. The remote sky always gives one the 
feeling of having a fine surface which changes as it rises to 
the zenith. That is my impression, and I paint it so. The 
same principle holds good in the landscape itself; I feel the 
texture of the distance to be smoother than the foreground, 
and the difference, expressed on the canvas, increases the sense 
of aerial perspective. You will of course have a knowledge 
of the elementary rules of linear perspective, but the perspective 
of the landscape painter is not so much concerned with actual 
lines as with imaginary ones. " He must bear in mind that 
the^land is more or less flat, and not an upright diagram 
with the diminishing objects as the only proof of distance. 
The one great strong line in Nature is that which is felt rather 
than seen, upon which the mountains base themselves, and the 




AUTUMN IN THE VALLEY OF THE OUSE. 
From the Painting by ALFRED EAST. A.R.A. 



PAINTING FROM NATURE. loi 

undulations of the fields appear to follow. Upon this imaginary 
line everything rests, and it must be felt in any landscape that 
aspires to strength and certainty. 

The landscape painter must carefully study the influence of 
atmosphere upon the lessened dimensions of remoter objects, and 
remember that his tone values must be jus t, and this is inti- 
mately associated with the truth of aerial perspective. For 
instance, if a yellow tree appears on the same plane as a green 
one in an autumn landscape, it will be easy enough to portray them 
in their right size in relation to your foreground. But a difficulty 
may arise when you try to paint them both in the same 
atmospheric plane. It stands to reason that, if an equal breadth 
of air intervenes between you and both trees, you have a colour 
problem to deal with now, for it is essential that they appear by 
reason of colour as well as size to be at the same distance from 
the observer. The lesson to bear in mind is, that your aerial 



pcyspectivej^ with your linear J^rspecttve. 

Remote objects occasion difficulties, no doubt, but do not try 
to make them recede by diluting your foreground colour by the 
addition of white. You cannot reach the result by such means; 
you must have a different set of pigments. The strong hues of 
your for^^ound, broken, as in Nature, into a hundred details, may 
be composed of cadmium of three grades of strength, of rose 
madder, and white, with burnt sienna broken with white and trans- 
parent emerald oxide of chromium, and transparent golden ochre. 
All these are broken together on your picture (see Chapter III., 
"Sketching from Nature,'' p. 14), not mixed on your palette. But 
for the extreme distance your colour should be mixed on your 
palette. For the intermediate distance you use paint not so flat as 
in the extreme distance, but not so broken as in your foreground. 

You have now, with plenty of paint and very little medium, 
practically repainted your picture. You have gone over most of 



102 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

the surface, except perhaps the shadows, which should not be 
thickly painted. You have modelled your trees, painted the 
middle distance, prepared the foreground with broken colour, and, 
above all, you have retained the original freshness of your effect — 
that first impression which imparted vitality to the subject. 

Now let me speak of the sky. It is as you left it in your first 
painting — merely a ground of white, toned with yellow ochre. You 
will probably have seen many cloud forms pass during your work 
up to this point, and you know in your mind, which will best 
harmonise with your composition. But still it is better to watch 
when your effect comes on, so that you may note the particular 
colour of the sky in relation to the trees, and in the same relation 
of colour paint it in your picture. But one moment — ^the form 
of the clouds that you perceive yonder may or may not suit your 
scheme. You will be fortunate indeed if they harmonise abso- 
lutely. No matter how beautiful your clouds may be, if they do 
not suit the contours of your picture you must avoid them, and 
accept only such as support and complete it, and are consistent 
with the character of the day. You must paint the sky again 
with the same tint as you used previously, a little warmer at the 
horizon, and cooler above. Then mix the blue on your palette, 
rather more strongly than is really needed, for the reason which I 
have already explained. 

You are now ready. You watch for your effect, which is coming 
on. You know it occurs at the moment of impact of that shadow 
upon the mass of trees which you have noted before. It is the 
supreme crisis when everything, as it were, will sing in tune. The 
clouds roll majestically forward and reveal the very form you 
desire- You are, of course, standing at your easel. No man 
ever painted a great sky sitting. You hold your breath in the 
excitement of the moment, you know what it means to your 
work; but do not hesitate, do not flinch. Take up the blue in 



PAINTING FROM NATURE. 103 

your brush and draw the sky, which will give the edge of 
the clouds. Watch with attention the exquisite gradation of 
tone where it shows itself above the cloud to the top of your 
picture, to where it touches your extreme distance. The form 
and colour gradation of a good sky will convey a sense of per- 
spective as truly as the landscape below. You have now secured 
the tone and form of sky which is in sympathy with the other 
parts of your picture. You have painted in your blue, so little 
after all, but with a risk out of all proportion to its area. Your 
clouds may be now modelled with more deliberation, painting them 
with grey at the undersides — a grey composed of rose madder, 
cobalt and yellow ochre. (See chapter on "Skies," p. 64.) 

If the under painting be properly prepared, the sky should be 
finished at one painting, though this purpose must necessarily 
be governed by size and other obvious circumstances. But 
what I want you to do now, and what is at this point of 
more importance, is to paint the sky into^the edge of^^t^^ 
You will remember how in another chapter (see p. 54) I discussed 
the method of dealing with this borderland of sky and foliage. 

Your picture having been brought to this point, you begin to 
feel you are within measurable distance of the end. Here I 
suggest that, if the conditions of Nature are favourable, and 
there is no probability of a change in yoiir subject, you should 
give the canvas a rest in order to let it dry. Again bear in mind 
that you cannot patch blue. If you have failed in the sky, the 
better plan is to take it all off to the under layer with an ivory 
palette knife and begin afresh. So few artists paint a blue sky 
well because they try to patch up the blue. It is difficult to paint 
a white cloud on a blue sky. It will always be a patch. Of 
course, after many years of experience you may be able to venture 
on some things which it would have been insane to attempt at an 
earlier stage, and this of adding blue to blue is one. 



104 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

Your picture is dry; you have oiled it out, and taken it to 
Nature again. You may have thought the time consumed for 
the preliminary studies was wasted, but, believe me, it is by these 
studies that you gain the knowledge and confidence which enable 
you to reach a successful issue. 

Suppose it had commenced to rain, and continued raining, or 
that the atmosphere had remained grey for some considerable time, 
and at the end of this period the weather cleared only to reveal 
the fact that the trees and grass had completely changed their 
colour! What then? As I have said before, your studies would 
be of the greatest value as reference. Here you find the benefit 
of the policy of making careful sketches and studies before com- 
mencing your picture. But if you are fortunate enough to have 
a continuation of suitable weather, you will have the opportunity 
of comparing the component parts of your picture with each other 
and Nature during the time the effect is maintained. 

You now watch keenly for the subtle and more indefinite 
passages of colour, such as the reflected or re-reflected lights 
which give it quality. As style depends mainly on the dignity 
of your composition, so quality depends upon the realisation of 
the more indefinite variations which make up the masses. You 
now select from Nature just those things that will sustain the 
character of your material. Your trees cannot show every leaf. 
Although there are those who have thought otherwise, like the 
old Dutch landscape painters, they have come to grief. You 
must realise what is infinitely finer — the portrayal of foliage so 
as to indicate aggregation of leaves in the suggestion of the mass. 
Yourpainting must give the sensation that the masses of foliage 
are made up of multitudes of leaves, though they are not separately 
indicated. A house in the middle distance you know is built of 
bricks, but you would not for one moment think of de picting the 
individual courses; you would treat the wall as a tone of colour, 




EVENING IN THE COTSWOLDS. 
From the Painting by ALFRED EAST, A.R.A. 



PAINTING FROM NATURE, 105 

and let that suggest the material. Or, take another case. Under 
the trees some cows are resting, and the sunshine dapples over 
them a pattern of light and shade. You know full well that 
the red and white, and the light and shadow of their hides, 
are composed of multitudes of fine hairs, but you do not 
dream of attempting the task of painting them. At the same 
time you should not paint the cattle as you would a door; 
with flat paint that would reveal nothing of the truth of the 
material it is intended to represent. So with trees and grass. 
Our knowledge informs us that the grass field on the distant 
hillside is green. But hold up a few blades of the same 
material at arm's length for comparison, and you will find that 
the apparen t distant ** g reen'' is not green at^ all, beK:ause of the 
effect or the interyeninjg^ atmosphere. You have to paint it so 
as to render the same impression as that of Nature, and to 
convince the spectator that though you paint it a yellow or blue- 
grey, it is identical in colour with the meadow at your feet.* 

Many illustrations could be added, if necessary, to emphasise 
this principle, but I have said enough I think to convince you of 
the absurd notion, promulgated by some, t hat t he closer imitation 
of Nature in detail shows e^reater knowledere. It is not so. The 
subtler knowledge of Nature is evinced by the artist who knows 
Nature so well that he can ad apt it to his own purpose. It is so 
in all things. The writer and the musician proceed on the sanie 
method. It would be absurd to say that the mere reproduction 
of natural sounds" is "^music,"^ or' IhafT'fa^ description of a 

locality in a guide book is literature. I remember an exhibition 
of ianclscapes wliich were submitted in competition for a prize. 
Although the prize was offered for a landscape, it was given to 
the painter of a careful study of rushes on a river bank. No doubt 
it was a faithful study, and the rushes were excellently painted, 

* See chapter on <* Grass " (p. 73). 
P 




io6 LANDSCAPE PAINTING IN OIL COLOUR. 

but it was not a landscape; and all those who had painted 
landscapes were naturally surprised at the award. Its supposed 
merit consisted in the most servile imitation of Nature, which 
excluded every particle of the personality of the painter, and only 
the abject ignorance of the character of things was revealed. It 
will be interesting to follow the career of that young artist if he 
paints his landscapes in that spirit. He would have done better 
had he learnt more of the possibilities of the growth of his 
rushes, so that he could include them in any form when it was 
necessary. 

Your picture may be said to be finished when it would be 
superfluous to add another touch to it, and when it rings in 
perfect harmony and rhythm of line and mass of tone and colour. 
The beauty and dignity of your composition, your scheme of colour, 
and all the personal and individual expression of your painting, 
should be full of that great quality which must be the dominant 
note of your picture, and that is the expression of the vital 
force and the convincing truth of Nature. 

I have already pointed out the advantage of making studies 
direct from Nature, as aids to painting. How valuable, then, are 
studies of colour effects to those who paint their most important 
pictures in the studio, and who must, of necessity, depend upon 
them, and upon their recollection and impressions, for the truth 
they wish to convey. 

So much has been said in support of painting direct from 
Nature, and there are so many advantages accruing from the 
practice, that I should advise the student at present to confine 
himself to that particular method. But it is nevertheless true, 
that some of the greatest landscapes in the world have not been 
painted^^ori" the "spot ; and it is also true that the artists who 
painted them only achieved success by passing through the 
curriculum and discipline I have attempted to describe. I feel 



PAINTING FROM NATURE. 107 

sure that Turner would not have painted the pictures which stand 
highest in our esteem, had he not thoroughly acquainted himself 
with Nature by his constant practice of sketching. For instance, 
we recognise his greatness in " The Shipwreck," or " Crossing 
the Brook," or "The Bay of iBaiae/' In the first picture the 
artist accurately reveals the power and majesty of the sea, and in 
the second and third, the wide outlook of the country lying in 
the vibrating light and heat of summer, conveying the most 
beautiful and subtle effects of broad daylight. These were 
not, and could not, have been done on the spot. Had they 
been so, they would not, in all probability, have expressed so 
much. They were the result of profound and careful study, the 
outcome of a most powerful and receptive memory. His con- 
scientiousness is brought home to us more clearly when we examine 
the little annotated sketches in pencil of complex subjects, which 
he had drawn from Nature, and others which realised the most 
wonderful appreciation of beauty. He spared neither time nor 
trouble, but strove to express his ideal through the constant and 
persistent study which is indispensable to the landscape painter. 
It is interesting to note that, in his artistic life, his develop- 
ment was based on the careful study of actualities. By the 
stages of materialism and realism, through which he passed, he 
ejimed the right to express the ideal. He who will not serve 
is not fitted to rule, and never was there a case in any life in 
which this maxim was better verified. This service must be 
long and tedious for most; for others, less so, perhaps by 
reason of their innate capacity for grasping essentials. But is it 
not so in other departments of life ? And if beginners could be 
saved from the inclination to stray from the path that leads to the 
goal, the goal would be sooner reached. 



Printbd by 

Cassbll and Company, Limitbo, 

La Bbllb Sauvagb, 

LuDGATB Hill, London, E.G. 



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The art of landscape 
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